A conversation about the recent controversy over at Basecamp morphed into an intense debate over employer brand and what makes for a unique work culture in this post pandemic world? Eventually, we ran on a tangent of diversity as we asked ourselves, "Do companies really care about diversity or is it all an exercise in virtue signaling?" After this virtual watercooler conversation began to escalate, we thought it would make for a very good podcast and so, here we are.
Tune in to listen to a very robust conversation on employer brand, company culture and woke politics in the office that is likely being mirrored in companies all over the world today.
Jim Stroud (0s):
Hello, dear listener, I have a question for you. Do companies really care about diversity or is it just one big virtue signal? That's something that we discussed around the virtual water cooler here at Proactive Talent. And our banter amongst ourselves became so lively that we decided to create a podcast where we discussed the various issues around diversity. And actually, it all kind of started around the controversy with a company Basecamp. Have you heard this controversy? In case you hadn't, Basecamp is a company in Silicon Valley that declared its work space to be a politics-free zone.
Jim Stroud (43s):
And that caused a furor, a trending furor across social media. Now there was more to the situation than just canceling politics, but that's what everybody focused on. Well, anyway, right after a brief message, you will be able to listen in on the banter at our virtual water cooler around diversity. Do companies really care? And we also touch on the controversies that happened recently at Basecamp. Tune in. This one is very interesting.
Jim Stroud (1m 28s):
You are listening to TribePod, a podcast series of interviews of interest to the HR community. It is hosted by Courtney Lane, produced by Jim Stroud, sponsored by Proactive Talent, and enjoyed by you. Today's episode begins right after this.
Will Staney (1m 46s):
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. And 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 in your company. We help our clients with recruitment marketing in a couple of ways. One is the recruiting marketing strategy and with that we really take the time to help you build the right strategy.
Will Staney (2m 30s):
And then we get mutual approval on that strategy before you spend a single dime. The other way that we do this, is through our agency of record service. This is a partnership with you where we're able to reach out to publishers on your behalf to negotiate better pricing, to execute on media campaigns, and really act as an extension of your team. Some of the benefits that our clients have seen working with Proactive Talent Recruitment Marketing services is an overall reduction of 30 percent cost per applicant. That's really significant. It's showing that we're ever the leverage, great technology, programmatic, and we're also flexible and scalable.
Will Staney (3m 13s):
We're platform agnostic. We're always gonna 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 26s):
For more information on Proactive Talent, visit them online at ProactiveTalent.com or click the link in the podcast description. Don't know if you're up on the Basecamp controversy, so let me give you just a little 30,000-foot view. Basecamp is a company that proclaimed that their office was the politics-free zone. There was some online backlash, online support was there for the company for people like Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, who did something similar with his company.
Jim Stroud (4m 13s):
And there was also a backlash because 30 percent of the employees of the company decided to leave because of that. Online, there was a lot of a bit of a frenzy where some people were saying yes, that was the right thing to do. Other people are like, no, you did that totally all wrong. And even though all of the banter online was focused on the politics-free zone, there's really more to the story. A part of it is that they took away a lot of their benefits, a lot of the things that make them a unique culture. And we were talking about that at our proverbial water cooler. And as we talked about it, we say, you know what?
Jim Stroud (4m 53s):
This will be a great podcast. So we say, yeah, let's do that. So here we are. And in this podcast are several of my tribal members. Will, introduce yourself.
Will Staney (5m 3s):
Hey. Will Staney, founder, CEO.
Jim Stroud (5m 6s):
Courtney Lane (5m 8s):
Lane, Principal Consultant over Hiring Services.
Jim Stroud (5m 11s):
Greg, if you please.
Greg Fonzy (5m 13s):
Hey, everybody, Greg Fonzy here, Lead Consultant over our DEI Practice.
Jim Stroud (5m 18s):
Pete Lawson (5m 20s):
Hey, everyone, Pete Lawson, VP of Growth and Client Services.
Jim Stroud (5m 23s):
And then your very, very cool voice, Brittany, introduce yourself.
Brittany King (5m 28s):
Brittany King, resident hope dealer and people and talent manager.
Jim Stroud (5m 36s):
We are laughing at each other. Listener, you can't see that because this is audio, not video. But there you go.
Will Staney (5m 42s):
Greg is like a hashtag <inaudible>, Jim.
Jim Stroud (5m 48s):
I need all I can get. This is interesting. We have the politics story, which is what all of the media was lashing on, but then you also have the disintegration of culture. If a company's gonna do away with the different perks and things that make them a unique company, then what separates them from everybody else? I'm gonna ask Will. Will, what will separate a company? What makes them unique if they're gonna do away of all the stuff that makes them a unique culture?
Will Staney (6m 13s):
Yeah, I think it looks confusing to me. And this story really caught me off guard was that, you know, Basecamp was like the woke Silicon Valley, you know, company that everybody looked to. Their founders wrote like five books on company culture. And the, you know, employees had a voice at the table around decisions that were made at the company. And so it was really interesting to understand. I have to do a lot of research to really understand like why this pivot all of a sudden. And I feel like, you know, there was a great introduction, Jim, but from what I understand is they were looking at their own internal DEI and there were some problematic stuff going on in that got to be a heated discussion.
Will Staney (6m 56s):
And it seemed like just from the backstory to me like this was a very quick executive reaction and just said, you know what, like all these current social events that are happening, it's distracting. There's too much, you know, bickering going on in our Basecamp streams, like, you know what, no more politics, right? Like I thought this was a no-more-politics rule, but when you looked at it, like they got rid of ERGs. They're saying, like, you know, now that is our head of HR that makes decisions on how we focus on DEI and things like that. They-- So it was more than just a no politics, but it seemed like the media went to town just saying, you know, Basecamp says no more politics.
Will Staney (7m 40s):
And so employees are leaving and I'm like, that's not the whole story, right?
Jim Stroud (7m 45s):
Yeah, exactly that, exactly that. A couple things pop in my head too when I saw that. I said, okay, everybody who left, there's gonna be a lot of recruiters online recruiting. They're gonna say, "Okay, you're leaving Basecamp, we'll take you." And I know there are several companies that did, but I also was curious, I'll ask Greg this. The effect of the whole denied equity thing when the Basecamp said we're done with all that stuff, what was your reaction to that? You're on mute.
Greg Fonzy (8m 18s):
Yeah, I think from me--
Jim Stroud (8m 20s):
Oh, there you go.
Greg Fonzy (8m 20s):
Oh, yeah, yeah. I'm here. I'm here. I'm here. I think for me just hearing that is disappointing, right? You know, as Will mentioned, you know, they had put out things, they had written books about it. You know, they are a leader, you know, in Silicon Valley as it relates to this world. And then in almost an instant based upon a reaction, a couple of things that have happened, now they're making these decisions to where their canceling politics and all these other things that are happening. And so, you know, it feels like individuals are being blindsided, you know, because at one point, they're developing this trust towards the Basecamp. Hey, they love being a part of this organization that is forward thinking, culturally relevant, practicing inclusion at the top is at the highest level.
Greg Fonzy (9m 4s):
And then the next thing you know, it's taken away from them. And so what really comes down was the motivation behind it, you know, from the outset. What was Basecamp ever really focused on DEI? Was inclusion, belonging really is ever a value of the organization, the company? And based upon this reaction, these set of events that have happened, the reaction and response is it wasn't. It's not. And so I think there's a lot of hurt and harm that has happened because when you're doing inclusion and when you're an organization that puts those values out, what comes along with being inclusive is also a level of vulnerability that comes with that.
Greg Fonzy (9m 46s):
And so being able to be vulnerable, you know, with supervisors, being able to be vulnerable in employee resource groups throughout your process, all of those things, that's what individuals are doing. And then when this is taken away and these practices, these series of events are antithetical to the ideas of inclusion. It causes a lot of harm and distrust. So for me, I was actually just discouraged and disappointed that this happened.
Will Staney (10m 11s):
Yeah. I mean, it kind of comes like psychological safety is so important if for highly productive teams and here are people who thought they had, you know, very, you know, very secure, psychological safety to like-- And there's so much that's been going on in this past year, right? we've been through a pandemic, racial inequality, you know, police brutality, like, you know, so much. Some of these things you further inequality within our economy just, you know, added fuel to the fire this pandemic has, right? And so of course, there's even in our own digital halls here at ProActive Talent, there's been discussions as things are happening and letting people talk about it, like to just all of a sudden say, yeah, we're not-- You just come here and do your job.
Will Staney (10m 55s):
And, you know, we're gonna pay you for that job, but we're gonna make all of the business decisions now. It was just like very much of a whiplash for me to understand.
Courtney Lane (11m 5s):
Well, yeah, in my head, I sat there and say to have 30 percent of your employee base within a very short span of time say, "I'm out. I'm done." To me, that signals that while there may have been all of the appearances of the right culture, that it wasn't really there, that it was inauthentic. Because if I felt like, authentically felt like the team that I was with an organization I was with was trying to do the right thing and maybe this was a misstep. I would wanna be a part of helping them get back there. But to have that like a quick break, I feel like their heads have already been as undertone <inaudible> of people just not feeling like it was genuine, that it wasn't really real, that we were doing a lot of talking about it and virtue signaling about it.
Courtney Lane (11m 45s):
But that wasn't the real experience people were having because I, I don't know, maybe I'm alone. I just feel like if my entire experience with the company had been really powerful and I felt like they got it and they were trying to do the right thing and then they made this kind of decision, it wouldn't be so easy to just leave just like that. There had to have been something that was quietly building to have that kind of a shedding of employees right off, like, you know, so quickly.
Will Staney (12m 11s):
All right, Jim, you did a whole TribeTV episode around the politics and a blog about no politics in the office, like why politics is probably not a good idea. Like we kind of understand the whole no politics thing. Like don't take-- Don't get personal politics. That's difficult thing to navigate, you know, but that doesn't seem like this is what that was, right?
Jim Stroud (12m 34s):
No, it seems like it has a little bit more to it. And it made me wonder to Courtney's point and I probably pitch this to you, Brittany, do you think companies really value diversity as much as they say they do? Or is it just a virtue-signaling that Courtney was talking about it?
Brittany King (12m 49s):
So I think Courtney, like she literally took the words out of my mouth because I would describe it as inauthentic. For me, for a workforce to say I'm out of here when something like that happens, to me that's indicative of a culture that was already on the brink of falling apart. And people looking at an opportunity to really get out and find somewhere better, I think a lot of companies put these, you know, super cute benefits. I think that Basecamp calls them "gotcha benefits", but they put these benefits in place that make you feel like you're a part of a culture, but I think the very fact that they are now pushing, you know, all of HR to make this one decision about what diversity, equity and inclusion or anything like disbanding their task force on different issues, to me that's problematic.
Brittany King (13m 32s):
And I think far and wide, companies that have this policy of like a prima facie policy. So on the face of things, we care about diversity. We care about inclusion and we care about equity, but when it makes us a little bit uncomfortable, we will pull the plug, and I think that is across the board. And I think that's so true to what a lot of companies do that I've seen. And I've said this before, but I think when you get, as an organization, when you get to a point where you're making decisions in the boardroom without feedback from those in the break room or concerned about those in the break room, because to me that doesn't feel like genuine concern. It feels like you're making the decision and I don't have a say. And that's one of the things that I love about Proactive Talent, not to put the shameless plug, but shameless plug, I always talk the candidates about our culture at the top.
Brittany King (14m 22s):
The fact that Will has office hour-- Not just open-door policy, it's like, no, schedule a meeting. Let's talk about the hard things. Let's be serious about having these conversations that may be hard, but make us better. So for me, I think it's just, I think it's a ploy to appear good, but if it's at all going to affect their bottom line or how they would like to be perceived, they will quickly change that appearance and pull the plug.
Will Staney (14m 46s):
Right, because that's really what kind of spurred this on, right, was they were doing their own internal stuff. They found like this list. Some employees were kind of offended by this list. And then when the founders were approached by it, that's when things got really heated. That's when this kind of came to a head and like, to me, that's like obvious. Then you're right. It's not genuine because you are not even willing to be vulnerable yourself as a founder CEO of this company and face the own, you know, the inequalities or discrimination that it might actually have existed. And, come on, we work with a lot of startups in Silicon Valley. You hire all your friends first and then you go to your network and then you start to finally build, recruiting, probably like any startup.
Will Staney (15m 29s):
I'm sure they started in a bubble, right, culturally, and then they've made over time these conscious efforts to be more diverse and given more employee voices. And then, you know, once they finally are battling with what kind of DEI organization you wanna be. You know, once it gets hard and real, that's the time you dig in, not the time you just say you throw in the towel, right?
Jim Stroud (15m 52s):
Greg Fonzy (15m 53s):
Yeah. And I think what's, you know, one thing I wanna, you know, make mention too is that, you know, Brittany, you mentioned about it being inauthentic, I wanna suggest, you know, and I wanna give them the benefit of the doubt, right, because I think that there are genuine people in the Basecamp organization really trying to DEI well and do it right. And I think one of the challenges or one of the things that I've come across is that those individuals who are responsible for HR, people operations, their own divisions and areas, they may actually be doing DEI well. They may actually be doing these strides and at one point, it didn't harm the founders, it didn't harm those in the C-suite.
Greg Fonzy (16m 34s):
It was okay to have these certain benefits in place. But I think that as our nation has really been, you know, on this DEI, has really been a heavier thing and noticing that these things came out around the time were the Derrick Shelving trial was going on. All of these things are happening. So now there's a different conversation where different people are in their room now. So where I wonder and I'm just wondering, what about their investors? What about their board? Did they now have influence in these decisions that sort of trumped those individuals who were making those strides for DEI, such as the task force, those, you know, HR folks, people operations, et cetera, et cetera?
Greg Fonzy (17m 17s):
I wonder now, did they have conversations in those really upper-level rooms to where now it changes and it sort of steps over all the work that other people have been doing? And so I wonder how did that come into play? You know, because those are the things we may not have been privileged to, but I will say that, you know, I think that there may have been an authenticity that many were leaning in, but when, as the rubber meets the road, and now these founders are placing these positions to where now their investors, their board, are now talking, that may have changed some things. So I just wanted to add that wrinkle into the conversation.
Courtney Lane (17m 55s):
Well, I think it's a really <inaudible> point and I think like to that end, like, sort of thinking about like the authenticity level and I think you're right, how to have been there at some point I think, it's when that difficult conversation needed to happen when it was no longer easy to lean into it. And it took an act of effort that's maybe where it started to get a little bit shaky and maybe that's where some of the signs of it where before I think, you know, there were some particular leaders that got pointed out in the conversation that, you know, it wasn't a one-time misspeaking that occurred, you know, that they had a history of maybe not living the values that the company was saying, you know, with their expectation of how people showed up.
Will Staney (18m 39s):
And, you know, probably some of this stuff was distracting. I bet there were conversations on politics and stuff that are happening around the election and other stuff that people were getting really heated, you know, in their internal channels. And I totally understand like locking that down, right.
Pete Lawson (18m 55s):
Yeah, that's true.
Will Staney (18m 55s):
But <inaudible> hard time understanding how it got this far, you know?
Pete Lawson (19m 1s):
Yeah. That was--
Jim Stroud (19m 2s):
Pete Lawson (19m 2s):
I was just gonna say I think that's where a lot of these conversations are happening in silos, especially at the leadership level where it's like, well, the culture belonging DEI-- Yeah. Yeah. We'll get to that. Let's talk business though, where it, like, those are like-- That should be merged. That's a one conversation like, you know, to a point of boardroom versus the break room. If you're a truly living authentic culture and inclusive culture, you know, you're talking about your top and bottom line in those boardrooms and like what the impact it has, you know, on your customers from a DEI lens and then on your internal employees. And so I think, you know, last year was, you know, and it continues the, you know, the conversation around this has evolved.
Pete Lawson (19m 46s):
I feel like we've jumped ahead 10 years on people just being able to have these conversations. You know, I once lived in a world where like you couldn't even have that conversation at the dinner table, you know, in my house growing up like that. We don't talk about that here, you know, and I feel now, you know, I had a conversation with my dad a week ago that I'm like, I feel like we've gone a hundred years for it. I'm like, how we can talk about these things and, you know, have these really, really tough conversations around these topics that, you know, have existed in our entire lifetime generation. And now it's, you know, that's being put into the culture within organizations and companies, and when I talk to-- even like my parents on, like what we talk about it at work and how we have these conversations, they're just blown away.
Pete Lawson (20m 30s):
Because they're just, you know, from a much different generation where, you know, we don't discuss those things. And so I understand the point of view, but I also think like a lot of times when I've been involved in some executive meetings myself and I see where some of those silos can appear of like, yeah, we'll about the DEI strategy later. It's like, no, we're actually talking about it now and how we're growing our business. It should be inclusive of everything that we're doing. I think a lot of times people really compartmentalize those things. One thing I wanted to ask you all is like what are your thoughts on, you know, I can see some theories that this was like a way to kind of force 30 percent attrition to try to clean up the organization, you know. So having one of this kind of like shake up moments.
Pete Lawson (21m 12s):
So like if you wanna build this kind of culture, I guess, good for you and good luck. But like I saw, you know, this possibly a vehicle for letting people kind of find the door themselves without having to kind of have to deal with some sort of a forced exit. But I don't know what your--
Brittany King (21m 28s):
That makes it even worse for me. Like that makes it so much more yucky for me. Like it makes me think there should be a hashtag that says #bottomlineTrumpsbelonging because you think about an organization at a very fundamental level, the light blood of the business, thus impacting the bottom line, are employees. And so if you don't care enough like Courtney you said to have these hard conversations, what does that really mean? Like I think about this with my kids being a parent who's like, "Hey, guys, I care about you. Don't say anything to me." Pete, to your point in generations past, especially being a black woman, it's like you are to be seen and not heard as a child.
Brittany King (22m 12s):
You do not interrupt, but now creating this new culture where it's like, I am just as much a person as you are. You deserve respect just as much as I do and really having this restorative justice lens to the way that we do things. And you think about the sixth of us here, whether it was two of us or three of us or, you know, one-on-one, we've had some difficult conversations with each other because we look at each other as a tribe and we really believe like if someone doesn't need to be in the tribe, let's have that conversation and communicate to them why, thus holding ourselves accountable to be serious about one of our core values ties in, continuous learning like integrity. So we will do those things that are difficult because we are favoring the long term and where we wanna be, so I don't know if that was big.
Brittany King (22m 59s):
It seems very plausible, but it is yucky. And I think it will perpetuate the culture that they're trying to perhaps eliminate.
Will Staney (23m 7s):
That's a really good point. It does seem like short-term thinking. Like, I wonder if they even like talked to the board about this before making this-- It seemed like pretty quick call, right, like, to make that shift. And, you know, sometimes I say all of the time, and you've heard me say it a million times already. Like, companies are communities. They are just a group of humans. And they aren't widgets, right, that you can decide how you wanna use that widget. Like you really do have to create an atmosphere where people want to bring their full selves and this is a company that really kept echoing that for a long time. And then all of a sudden said, "You know what, leave parts of you at home when you come to work."
Courtney Lane (23m 49s):
Well, I think Brittan's visceral reaction to the floating of the idea that they would have done it as a shake-up is the same reaction that so many potential candidates would have to a company as well, because if I were to think a company would have to choose that as their behavior to exit a group out of the organization, there's no amount of anything you could throw my way to make me want to come in now worked for that company. And so I think like-- I know we're just playing with like, you know, a potential. We have, hypothetical, we have no idea, but to me, I think Brittany's reaction is like spot on to how anybody's reaction or a lot of people's reaction will be like, oh, that seems like, you know, sort of awful.
Courtney Lane (24m 30s):
And why would I wanna go work for a company that they're not gonna have an honest conversation with me or give me a decent, you know, sort of exit after putting in so much time and energy. They would instead try and make me mad and leave the-- You know, leave, stump out of the room basically, like let's make you choose to exit rather than us owning that this is a decision we're making on our side.
Will Staney (24m 48s):
As soon as you said that because it makes me wonder too. I can agree that we're a tribe and people should have a voice inside the company. The question, I think some people who are listening may have, the Monty Burns of the world maybe, maybe saying, "Yes, listen to them, but how much should I listen to them?" And gets a couple examples of what I mean by saying that. So there were different companies, different employees in different companies that have scheduled walkouts because of political beliefs. The CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison, he had a fundraiser for Donald Trump and a sort of his workers walked out or stopped working for like unannounced for like an hour.
Will Staney (25m 33s):
Facebook also walked out because they didn't like that Facebook did not cancel Trump fast enough. And then you have people at Amazon who don't like how much carbon emissions that they're generating with their work, so they're saying, "You know what, Amazon isn't being green enough, so we're going to walk off of our jobs here." And then you have another example of Microsoft employees saying, "Okay, we don't want you to do work with the Pentagon because you're-- We don't work for you to help develop weapons." So Microsoft lost out on a $400 million contract because it was all the controversy.
Jim Stroud (26m 14s):
So my question for people who aren't here is that I hear what you're saying. I need to listen to my employees, their voices matter to me, but let's say it in a case of Microsoft, should I listen at the cost of $400 million deals? Or should I try to find to kind of a compromise or maybe, just throwing this out there, should the values be so absolute in the company that certain scenarios won't even come up in a first place, right? So throwing it out there, what are your reactions to that? Because I'm thinking that companies should listen to their employees to an extent or have some kind of agreement beforehand, but you're looking at a $400 million.
Jim Stroud (27m 1s):
That's a touchy situation.
Will Staney (27m 3s):
Greg Fonzy (27m 3s):
It is touchy. And I think for me, it's really about where does your value lie? Are you valuing the $400 million contract more than the people in your organization? And if the question -- If the answer is, hey, I want to $400 million contract, then what you've done is you've put a value. You've put a limit on what people are worth. To me, that's problematic. To me, that is the psychology of slavery. To me, that is the psychology of oppression. To put a value of something, whether it's yourself, pride, your self-goals, your contracts, to put that over people, that is the psychology of slavery.
Will Staney (27m 47s):
Yeah, especially if that $400 million contract it's not-- You're such a big company that is not enough to do any kind of significant damage, you know, like. Though, I mean, there was a case that they were making where it was like, hey, that four million, that's more jobs and more people, right, that we can-- and we can do better benefits, right? Like as a CEO and owner, I understand it. I think it comes down to trust and context, right? You have to trust your employees, right, that they give-- You have to first inspire them to believe in what you're trying to build too, right. But then you have to give them the context that they don't have at your level. Like when you're entrusting in giving the responsibility to employees to make certain decisions, you now have a responsibility to give them enough information and context to help you in making those decisions.
Will Staney (28m 35s):
And you can't always do that. You can't always do that. It is difficult. And, you know, it's why you hear me say a lot when we're talking about building ourselves in marketing engine here, when we're talking about bringing it's like, we've gotta feed the tribe, right? Like I, as an owner, I look at all my points, like, this is my team. This is my family. I'm here to create consistency and a good experience and, you know, financial security for all of us here. I think about your kids. Like, I take that personal responsibility and that's just different. And we can go into a whole diatribe about the downfalls of sort of the profit at all cost, brand of capitalism and how it hurts companies.
Will Staney (29m 20s):
But I think this is another example of that, right? Like if there's gotta be a happy medium, where you're taking in the feedback of employees around a mission and that your mission has to be more important than money. At some point, people in my situations who are CEOs or steering companies have to think about businesses more than profit, that business is impact. Business is values. You know, it's something-- It's gotta be more than that, but decisions like this made by companies make me go, "We're still in capitalism, you know, V1, right now.
Brittany King (29m 58s):
Yeah. And for me, it's not even-- Like, I think some people would make the case that this is about people having the right to their opinions or their beliefs or whatever. And to me, that's just the surface of what this issue really is because it's not about if you agree with this or you agree with that, or if I'm pro this and you're anti this. That's not what it is. Will, to your point, I think whenever an organization gets to the point where their mission and their focus on one person, whether that be the CEO or the person that's mad about the missions is greater than the value for the entire-- greater than the entire group or the entire organization, that's when you kind of get in the land of being dangerous.
Brittany King (30m 45s):
So to take that a step further, our policy here is that no one member of our tribe is greater than the whole. So that means we look out for everyone. I don't come into a call with Wil at a higher level than I'll come in to a call with the potential candidate that I am speaking with. I give the same grace. I give them the same respect, no matter what their opinions are, no matter what their beliefs are, because let's be honest. Like we live in the digital age. And so we see vitriol all day, every day. And I think people want to, first of all, I feel like we live in a culture where people wanna be outraged about stuff, right. I feel like that's pervasive to our culture right now, but at the very same time, I think when organizations become of the mind frame that Will mentioned of really caring about people and not ascribing to the psychology of slavery, our world will be better.
Brittany King (31m 38s):
But you can't. I mean, if you think about it in a very organic level, you can't be a company that's about its people if you don't pay attention to what the people say. If you don't give the opportunity to voice what their feeling and to share, like, I need a place for that. And to me, making one person responsible, Greg, to your earlier point, that seems like a lofty task. It just seems like a lofty-- To own that level of responsibility, because you think about how--
Will Staney (32m 10s):
Yeah, that's for head of HR, my gosh.
Brittany King (32m 11s):
Yeah. Like how do you do that?
Will Staney (32m 13s):
What a burden.
Brittany King (32m 13s):
How do you do? And I've sat in organizations where I didn't-- Like who do I go to if I need to get this? I don't know where to go.
Jim Stroud (32m 18s):
So are we saying the ultimate decision maker, let's say--? Let's stick to the Microsoft example because they can't afford to lose 400 million. Is it that--? We say-- Okay, I'm gonna put an angel on your shoulder and a devil on your shoulders. I'll let you know-- I'll let you figure out which is which, right. On one side you're saying, this is $400 million, if we just take this money and we can do a lot of good in the company. We can do a lot of stuff. If we don't take this amount of money, then I might have to lay some people off, or I might have to cut certain benefits because we can't afford it even though we're Microsoft, but even though with the $400 million we can pay salaries, we can pay benefits.
Jim Stroud (33m 1s):
We can clear some bills and gets little bit of breathing room before the next quarter, or we can stick to our guns and just walk away from $400 million and hope that another $400 million deal comes along. And if the answer is I'm gonna still walk away from $400 million because I know the whole tribe will be against it, then at what point does the leadership of the company belonged to the C-suite versus belonging to the employees? Or should it be a combination? That's a lot in that, Pete.
Pete Lawson (33m 36s):
I'll want-- Yeah, no. I'll want, I think like, you know, to your earlier question, I think if you're a building values in a culture that is inclusive, the employees having a say in it, it's not just in some silo or a boardroom, like here's our values, throw them on the wall. Everybody believes. Like it's gotta be everyone. So like, if you're truly building those in the authentic way of having like strong values within the organization that people really feel like they created it, they're plugged into, then that's like, that should keep you, hopefully, your true north on where some of these topics come up in your barometer for how you react to them. And if it's outside of that, then you give that back to your people to help make the decision. So for this example, it's-- All right, here's the devil and the angel.
Pete Lawson (34m 19s):
Here's the pros and cons as an organization. You know, the cons, yeah, some of you might not be here if we decide not to do this, but here's the honest truth. It's a good contract. Here's the bad. And you give everybody the opportunity to kind of weigh in on that. You know, I don't-- Then I would say give that opportunity for people to make that call themselves. I mean, yeah, you think of--
Will Staney (34m 41s):
That's the trust and context I was talking about, right? Trusting them, yeah.
Pete Lawson (34m 44s):
You think of the Voice. Like we could make a decision in one night and like who's a semi finalist on the Voice, like with the click of a text, right. You can figure out the vehicles-- I don't take that like, you know, I think-- I don't take it seriously when people are like, well, it's really hard to-- How do you engage a hundred thousand employees on how to make such a big decision like this? Like, you know, again, the Voice example, like we can choose semi-finalists in five minutes. So like we could figure out a way to, you know, figure out a way within your culture to do that, but--
Brittany King (35m 11s):
It's a matter of how bad you want it.
Will Staney (35m 14s):
Brittany King (35m 14s):
How bad do you want it?
Will Staney (35m 16s):
And what I heard from Peter is that having a true north, having a certain set of values that you're gonna stick to, and if you don't stick to them, are they really your values, right?
Courtney Lane (35m 25s):
Well, if you don't stick to them, there's the consequence to that, which means you will have 30 percent of your employees choose to leave because you have not stayed true to who you were and the values that you espoused through your values. So it's a, you know, there's always the consequence and not supposed at the business level and in the, you know, individual level. You know, there is that choice to leave in an organization if you don't feel like their values don't align with you, or they're not living the values that, you know, do align with you, whatever the case maybe. But that applies to the company too. If you choose to do something that's outside of the promise that you've made in your mission and values to your employees, then you can't be surprised or hurt or offended or bothered that they call you out on it by choosing to go somewhere else.
Jim Stroud (36m 9s):
So would you--?
Will Staney (36m 10s):
They gave them an opportunity though, right?
Jim Stroud (36m 12s):
They did in severance.
Will Staney (36m 13s):
<Inaudible> and then they-- That should be said just for those who aren't following this story. They offered package to anybody who wants to leave and a 30 percent or more opted to take it.
Greg Fonzy (36m 26s):
But even with that though, they knew they were wrong. Like they didn't just, "Hey, this is our decision. It is what it is." No. As they were talking amongst them, they had to come to the conclusion and say, "Hey, we're gonna make this decision. We know that it's gonna ruffle feathers. We know that we're gonna lose people. So let's go ahead and develop this severance package." You don't develop those severance package--
Will Staney (36m 49s):
They were prepared for it.
Greg Fonzy (36m 50s):
Right. They were prepared. They knew they were wrong.
Courtney Lane (36m 54s):
Really solid point there, yeah.
Will Staney (36m 55s):
It's a very good point.
Jim Stroud (36m 58s):
Let me ask you this, Greg. Let me ask you this is, Greg. All right, because-- Again, it's not a Monty Burns question. There's gonna be someone listening and they'll say, "You know what? Let's just donate some money to--" fill in the blank, "and we'll do a big press release. Let me say, look, we're not bad guys. We gave a million dollars to," fill in the blank. "So we were really good people. Look at the money. Don't look at what's over here." And then eventually what's over there will come out. How do you think that really affects someone's employer brand? If they'd say, "Let's just throw some money out a cause and it will make it go away." What do you do you think about that?
Greg Fonzy (37m 35s):
It does nothing. In my opinion, it doesn't nothing. Sure, you have money. You can donate it and that's great, but were you there in the trenches? Did you really have impact, right? To me it does nothing. I can donate all day to X organizations and not really care. In fact, I might not even know that I have donated to this organization because many of them don't even know. They probably have their accountants. "You all to take care of it. Wherever you donate is fine with me. Put my name on it. It's great." That does nothing for an organization. What does something for an organization is an organization that says, "Hey, I have a given money, but I also was present and this is how I'm active." Sure. I can give a hundred thousand dollars to the NAACP, for example.
Greg Fonzy (38m 19s):
I give a hundred thousand dollars, but did I also work with NAACP to create pipelines of jobs and a bridge program so the individuals can now have access to what my company offers. That's a different conversation. That says a whole lot more than just donating money. Donating money in my opinion is the easy thing to do.
Jim Stroud (38m 38s):
Yeah, I keep hearing value, value. Stick to your values. Yeah. How often, Will, in the conversations you've had with different clients and prospects whatnot, has corporate values come up?
Will Staney (38m 52s):
Every single time, right. Every event that we have, right, and I can tell you it's really interesting. You can tell, you know, which companies are battling with this right away, right. It's the ones that are coming saying we're really having a hard time attracting talent. We're also having some attrition issues. And the first thing I say is, "Cool. Do you have established values?" You know, if we're talking about an employer <inaudible> engagement and they're like, "Yeah, but, you know, they're really-- They're developing the boardroom. They don't even-- They're not even shared beliefs." Like we were working with a company where one of their values is like, you know, to take on the mobile, you know, the mobile era or something like that. And it's like, that's not-- That's a goal, right?
Will Staney (39m 34s):
They're not a value, right. And so they weren't even getting that part right. And so, of course, they're having attrition. Of course, you know, they're having a hard time attracting talent because they hadn't even done the foundational work of figuring out, like, what are our shared values as a company? And that's like first, like first thing, right? And the earlier you do it as a company founder, the better to decide, like, what are you about, and what are your values and what do you want the companies' the value to be, what kind of culture do you wanna be? I think we were for decades stuck in this mode, especially in the tech startup community where, you know, this stuff was secondary. And we kind of looked up at our company when it became a hundred to a 150 people, and it was getting harder to recruit and go like, "Oh, what is our culture, right?
Will Staney (40m 18s):
Oh, this is our culture. Oh, we gotta to fix this." It's like, well, if you're really intentional about what you're trying to do, if you weren't thinking about how can we make money with this business idea, and you actually thought about also, I need money to sustain this impact I wanna make on the world, right. And I feel like, at least for me, in my own entrepreneurial journey as a CEO, like I built Proactive Talent as a reaction to what I didn't like about the corporate world. So I literally started this company with an intention that it was going to be a lifestyle company so that I can have the work-life balance I wanted to have and make the impact and effect that I wanna have, and I wanted to, you know, attract other people that wanted that lifestyle too.
Will Staney (41m 0s):
And that's just fundamentally different. And I think more of these new companies with that idea on this, more social good companies who really care, you know, as equally about impact as they do profit, they're coming. You know, I really think that we're turning the corner here of social consciousness as a society and we'll see more companies like this. I'm a hopeful for that.
Jim Stroud (41m 24s):
Okay. Okay. Very cool. Very cool.
Pete Lawson (41m 26s):
I thought culture was snacks, wait a minute. It was snacks you offered.
Jim Stroud (41m 31s):
Pete Lawson (41m 32s):
And tennis table.
Will Staney (41m 32s):
I will say that client that didn't have the values and stuff like that, we had to pause the engagement and we have to wait for them to do that work or how, you know, gave them data. They did that work. Guess what, they came back later on like a year later. Will, we did this work. We did some changes in the leader's team. Like now we went back. We did implement. We executed it and it was great. And employees we're engaged. And, you know, like you can fix this too. Like, not all companies started this way, but any company can decide to do, to do it the right way, you know.
Jim Stroud (42m 9s):
Our company is more than profit, have values and stick to them, have their brand in mind as you form your company and as you do things, and diversity and inclusion and equity should be a little bit of everything. It's not just one thing. And it's certainly that something you can just sort of buy off of a donation. Lots of good points here. Man, I'm gonna listen to this podcast as soon as I end this. This is like get more of that. Thank you, guys. For our listeners, if you would, everybody say bye on the count of three. One, two, three. Bye!
Everyone (42m 44s):
Pete Lawson (42m 44s):
Will Staney (42m 45s):
Of course, you're gonna listen to it again. You have to edit it now.
Jim Stroud (42m 56s):
Well, there is that too. You've been listening to TribePod. If you love what you heard, hate what you heard or I don't know what you just heard, we want to know about it. Send your email to TribePod, T-R-I-B-E-P-O-D, @ProactiveTalent.com. Operators are standing by.