How do we create a digital employee experience focused on thriving?

The Future of People Initiatives, Transcript
January 12, 2023
27 min



Focusing on the people just, you know, I mentioned during the polling before we begin, I’ll do a quick reflection, I find myself, you know, share an error, but a few personal things happen this week. And I find myself in this philosophical mode. And I’d like us to begin there for just a minute over the last couple of weeks I’ve had, I’ve lost count, maybe it’s 15-20 conversations on air. And there’s been some remarkable breakthroughs. In my view, Spirit Airlines, specifically, the head of talent, talked about how do we consumerized employee experience? And this isn’t, you know, this isn’t a completely not it. This is not a brand new concept. However, those three words coming together created an interesting energy, how do we think about communication in large organizations? How do we think that about the communication in a way that we show to our customers that’s relevant, that shows them we care? I have had others who challenge that by saying not consumerization, maybe it’s humanization. Maybe it’s going beyond, there was another amazing episode with Stephanie, where she talked about which experience is more important, the customer or the employee, and I don’t want to spoiler spoilers for those who haven’t listened, but it’s neither. It’s the human experience, it’s us coming together. So inspired by those conversations, as well as now having a number of episodes that are coming up, including a leader at Pay Pal, what we’re going to talk about. Now what, once you realize that this is where you’re going, what is your roadmap to get there. But today, our focus is going to be on how do we create a digital employee experience to help your people thrive in your organization, in Napoleon as the global lead of change management, for Pepsi, I just really found your approach to be refreshing. I like how you honed in on certain aspects and made them simple, where I think a lot of folks in our industry in this industry tend to make things very complicated. So first, just Napoleon, thank you for coming in. And, you know, thank you for for, for being a part of this with us.


Napoleon Grinshpan  02:21

Thank you so much. And, you know, on your, as you said, I think we’re making things too complex. You know, life is too complex, I think there was a big look inside of companies and people’s after, during and after COVID. And I do think one of the cornerstones of things that we’ve been working is to simplify the employee experience, we have made things so complex to either click on a thing that we’re searching to find information, either in the company or sometimes even when we’re searching, that we need to simplify that. And you know, we need to make things more simpler, more intuitive, that everybody can use it. Because now we are reaching three different generations, we have the Baby Boomers, the Gen Z, the millennials, everybody else is approaching things in a different way. So we need to find like a common pattern, more human language. So people make things a little bit more simpler. And make sure that you know that employee experience, it’s intuitive by itself.


Adam  03:27

You use the word intuitive, relevant, you know, when I hear those words, I used to hearing them in the context of product design of marketing and social media. But it’s interesting. Now, it also is super logical, like if this is how we experience the world outside of organizations, right? We come to work, why should that experience be entirely different? Someone who’s going to be a guest on the show said, Hey, we don’t come to organizations to feel like we’re at a DMV. And she said, DMV, and I was like, Oh, yes, some DMVs are amazing, right? Nothing against DMV but often it feels like it’s impersonal you’re a number. You know. But where I’d like us to begin, if you don’t mind. Napoleon, is this idea of not just the generational, which are challenges of its own. We’ve got challenges of virtual versus in person, which we can talk about, of course, but I haven’t touched on this podcast, the concept of globalization, the concept of cultures, where some of the communications that take place inside organizations are looked at as let’s translate it, I let let’s do a translation. And when it shows up inside, or shows up on the other side, it sounds like someone took a something that’s designed for North America and literally translated it. And it’s not really for us, we’re seeing a translated version. So I’d love your person. active on when you think about change management globally? How do you apply a global lens that helps individuals feel like, you know, it’s relevant for them?


Napoleon Grinshpan  05:09

Yeah, and old partners from the, what we call that what, what’s the employee experience we want to deliver. You know, many years ago, I do remember in previous experiences with many other companies. And I was thinking about that this morning is like, we have an idea to implement something globally, let’s say here from North America, or from a specific region. And we said, Okay, I think this is what we need to do. So we plan to implement that we work on our communications, we deliver what needs to be done. And then what happens crickets, it’s not successful. That was because our approach was like one sided, you know, initially, before we said, Okay, this is what I think you need as my customer, my internal client and the company. And I’ll assign that and I’ll give you that product. And at the end of the day, it didn’t work, because I did and took into considerations, the cultural dynamic. And that’s how today we’re doing what it’s called reverse engineer, instead of us thinking, what I do want, as a company, go to my markets, my different regions in Asia, in Europe, North America, Latin America, and I say, hey, we have an idea to do something for our employees, this is the experience that we want to develop, what do you think, and then we gather that feedback, I say, maybe Latin America, the patterns of communication are completely different that we could say, in Europe and Asia Pacific. And then we take all that together. And we’ll build something in partnership that has meaning that communicates and speaks in their language in the ways of they want to communicate. And at the end of the day, when we want to implement change, when we want to make sure people are embracing the new ways of working when we are trying to deliver what we call a delightful employee experience, that it’s intuitive. It has a lot to do of how I do perceive that, from my cultural perspective. You know, somebody says, a long time ago, think, look, think global and act local. So I do think that’s still a reality today. Because the way that we perceive things in one place based on my culture, my patterns of communication is completely different than what would be in another sector or another region.


Adam  07:29

So maybe from a global change management communication perspective, we replaced the word translation with adaptation,


Napoleon Grinshpan  07:37

Correct. Correct. It’s a partnership and understanding like, “what are the elements that are important for you, in your specific plays around in the world?” And what are important for me and what it’s the commonplace that we can find? So that experience that we’re trying to deliver, aligns globally, and delivers what we want to do.


Adam  08:01

I really liked your explanation on the distance in conversations, right? You introduced a concept that was a brand new concept for me, I think our audience would would appreciate hearing that as well.


Napoleon Grinshpan  08:11

Sure. And let me tell you a very short story. When I arrived in North America, I got out what was cool at that time a cultural coach, which was, you know, help you to understand how people interact here in North America. One of the things that that struck me at that time, and I still have to find exactly this, the study that did is like this organizational psychologist several years ago, the pattern of distance on communication, when one would be the closest one like moblie in your face talking like, and 100 would be the farthest distance, let’s say, you know, a couple of meters. And with this person found is, for example, I’m from Latin America, we tend to talk pretty close when we are having a conversation. So let’s say my distance from one to 100 was around 25. North America, we’d like to keep sort of a small distance not too far, we, let’s say would be 50. And some other cultures, like I remember was the German culture, this ones would be 100. What that is says is that’s my level of comfort while I’m talking to you and receiving the same way applies for when I’m trying to communicate things, if I’m going to use a language for my Latin American folks, has to be something that connects closer to them. We are very emotional people we like, you know, we’re very energetic. We like to communicate things in a very, you know, exciting way. So that’s probably our 25 to feel closer to that customer. North America, we like to be politically correct. We like to do things in the right way. The process the steps, that probably would  be our 50 percent. And other countries they like to be more structured, completely structured step one, step two, give me exactly what I need to do in a short pail. Thank you so much that said. So in the same way that implies everything that we tried to do when we’re talking about employee experience, if it needs to adjust, depending of where we want, and where we are.


Adam  10:23

So that’s a perfect example that I think could be applied to so many dimensions of, you know, how we’re unique. Right? So we talked about, you know, the global implications, the adaptation. Next time, I’d love to think about, you know, just a current mindset as well, let’s contextualize you and I, you know, really agree that the attention span, I think it’s undisputed fact, now that this is something that we must take into consideration for internal communications, when I receive, you know, a bunch of paragraphs in an email, that email is not going to be consumed by me during my flow of work, it now requires for me to activate some level of cognitive muscle that is, you know, I used to use that all the time, in every communication, I don’t anymore. So Napoleon, how do you think about our communication? You know, perhaps the media, the length, the attention span?


Napoleon Grinshpan  11:21

Let’s you know, let’s think today, how many emails everybody received in your inbox every morning, I can say, for me, at least 100. From all those emails, how much time do I use to really go in depth to the message that I’m receiving to the action I need to be done. If I receive a lengthy email that has like, six paragraph, even less, sometimes, I might lose focus on that one, because I have so many present things. One of the elements that I have found in my previous years, it’s, you know, we’ve been bombarded with so much information. And now we have tick tock, we have Instagram, we have so many different social medias. And those are the elements where people are paying attention. So in a lot of projects that I’ve been working in the last few years, and focus also on a targeted audience that we are, we have now more younger people or people of any different backgrounds, but are focusing more. In multimedia, I found that if we create video snippets of what we want to do explaining, we do an animation, we do a certain multimedia experience for them that is shorter, maybe 90 seconds with a key message of what we want to do, and follow up with several other communications that are short in perspective, but are engaging, those are the ones who have a higher record than the ones that are just a lengthy email that just explains the same, but in a more or less multimedia way. So those are creating high impact multimedia videos, it’s what you know, people are really paying attention to these days,


Adam  13:01

we’re closer we can come to how they experience the world outside of their organizations, the more likely, we can get them to engage. And I want to touch one other dimension of uniqueness before we really start thinking about the future of people initiatives and dive kind of headfirst into that abyss, if you will, of possibilities. But there are many folks because of COVID. Many kids I should say are experiencing all kinds of challenges, and they’ve existed before in our family we’ve been exposed to, you know, OCD, and what does that mean? And how can now organizations adjust? Because that’s, that’s one of many dimensions of what makes folks unique. Do you think that this is, you know, this is an area for organizations to take into consideration as they think about their communications?


Napoleon Grinshpan  13:53

Well, you know, I think COVID was a big moment for companies and people to pause and rethink things. I know, we’ve been talking a lot about diversity and inclusion in many companies that, you know, diversity from ethnicity, perspective, racial perspective, but we are forgetting as well, another audience, which are the neurodiverse population. I do think that, you know, after COVID, there was a higher level of people that starting to suffer depression, people that may be, you know, ADHD was expressed, all other other kinds of elements that what we call neurodiverse people. And I’m not sure if if organizations around the world are tackling that element as of today, because at the end of the day, you know, there’s only so much you can do, but I do think that that’s something that we need to start focusing if we’re thinking the person as a whole being working in for an organization looking for a meaning. I do think that we need to focus as well, when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, seeing perspective of neuro diversity, that’s a key element that that probably, you know, some people would be very thankful that that, if organizations starting to focus in and build programs around, it will help a lot, because you’ll be surprised how many people are neurodiverse. But they don’t mention that for, you know, being afraid of being targeted or putting a name on.


Adam  15:29

You’re so right. And it all speaks to the uniqueness, the uniqueness of the human that we’re communicating with. So we talked about the cultural, you know, stemming from global implications we talked about the current mindset talked about neurodiversity. And of course, there’s so many other dimensions of what makes us unique. We could probably continue the entire podcast and many, many, many more podcasts. But I’d like to shift our discussion into, okay, now what right, so we understand that this is, this is the future. And I think it’s, at this point, also undisputed, we are going to tackle these questions. We’re going to tackle them. This is, over the last six months, hundreds of conversations, almost every leader saying yes, we got to go there. Napoleon, how do we manifest this future of people initiatives? And how do we start to rethink about data? How do we become data driven toward the world of l&d change management, HR, kind of talk to me in broad strokes about how you see in the future help us tackle these challenges? 


Napoleon Grinshpan  16:38

Well, the data will give you so much, you know, what numbers can do? I remember somebody said that numbers can give you any interference that you want to make off. I think the key element here is what do we want to measure? A lot of companies has many data analytics on people, you know, the same way that do data analytics on our customers and clients. Many companies started to work on data analytics for human resources for people around I do you think that the best way to tackle is what’s the strategy that we want to deliver with those numbers? It’s to focus on, okay, do we want to just go farther beyond just what its turnover or churn or potentials? I think those are classic measures, but probably what we need to start looking at its level of engagement, you know, people readiness for changes that we’re doing, we have so many numbers, that what we need to do is how we put the story together with those numbers to make sure that it’s delivering the message that we want to do. And that message is, what’s the employee experience that I want to give to my employees? How do I want them to perceive the organization? How do I feel like they want to keep and keep them engaged them? How do I want to make sure that they have a sense of purpose of what they’re doing within a specific company. So for me is, those are the key measures, they are more difficult to find between the numbers. But you can put together some story when you do when you have your data analytics, and align several of those metrics to put the story of the employee experience


Adam  18:22

With you. There’s from a measurement perspective, how we, you know, compile it into a story, how we potentially correlate it to business outcomes, lots of innovation. I’m like us to tackle kind of the use of data in a much more futuristic way, just for a minute, and take it from a neurodiversity lens or dimension that we discussed. And I know that this is far out that this is out there. And I’m not talking about Big Brother, I’m not talking about getting more data, I’m simply asking the question if we begin to look at data to understand the uniqueness of the individual, right, again, whether it’s a global culture, location, whether it’s mindset, whether it’s, you know, how they’re how their brain is more attuned to taking in information when, what media they’re in? What can we look at data so that we can tailor our communication to meet them where they are, and for us to recognize their uniqueness?


Napoleon Grinshpan  19:26

That would be a very futuristic approach. Particularly and this is my only opinion. I’m not sure if you know many companies are ready to walk that path yet for many different perspective, you know, from legal perspective from many other different ways. But I do think in the future if we see in ourself, and we are trying to identify a better ways of working have a better employee experience. I do think those are elements that we need to look how employees feel I’m connected with the organization, what’s the way that they feel that the organization is providing the element of psychological safety? That No, it’s been another word that’s been in the market lately. How they feel secure and engaged and motivated to what they’re doing. Those are elements, I think it’s a big challenge for companies, you know, there’s many organizational surveys around, people trying to tackle that. Not as well known metrics, but they’re trying to tackle that I do still we have a very long path to walk. But I do think it’s very important. I mean, we need to try to find a better way of not thinking employees as just an asset that it’s providing, you know, specific duties and results, but also something additional,


Adam  20:54

You know, when we got on, I kind of warned that I’m going to philosophical mode today for you know, contemplative mode, and you’re so like, nailed it from organizational readiness perspective across so many different, you know, reasons why we’re not we’re not there. We are not. We’re absolutely not there to take on these questions. So, I have been thinking a lot about. So how do we do this in bite size? If we were to begin, you know, piece by piece by piece, not data use and measurement, which of course, there’s a lot of innovation, but data use in how we’re communicating with individuals, what could we do? So you mentioned psychological safety. They’ve had a long discussion yesterday, if we were to simplify psychological safety, who has the biggest impact on yourself psychological safety? We spoke to Gallup, they say it’s all about the manager. I totally agree. I think the manager is critical. If we agree with that. The next question is, if it’s about the manager, is it about the annual big meeting the for the manager? No, it’s the little things for sure. It’s the little things that the manager could do. And I started to think about, okay, well, if you look at the employee data, when they come back after being sick, let’s say for a week, and they look at their calendar, and they’re smoked, 10 meetings, there’s no one individual that’s at fault. They looked at their calendar, it was available, they scheduled it, what if a manager had, you know, a little reminder to say, hey, check the calendar, reach out to them? Hey, are you okay? Are you okay? I know you were sick last week, that’s a lot of meetings were to take on being back. Are you alright? What would that do? And that’s a form of use of data now in how we’re communicating versus the measurement. And the point, I know, I’m dragging you into a future conversation. But I’d love a love your perspective.


Napoleon Grinshpan  22:45

And I have to tell you, I mean, when I go back on all my career history, on your tell me which one is the leader that you remember the most, I could say my earliest when I started in human resources, so many years ago, I still I’m a good friend of he was my manager. And I said he was my mentor. Because he was not only the person who would coach me in the way how we need to do things, how it’s what should be your reaction, or sometimes got me what would be my answer. But also, he cared about me as a person. So he, this person could read me really well. And you when something was going on, we would have a conversation. Just about, you know, life and how things were going, how are you doing? I do think this days because of the craziness, we are all all of our work, burnout. There’s so many responsibilities. A lot of people is forgetting about that, you know, on a lot of things that I do with my team members and people that I have a supervisor to pass every every every morning that I do it’s I send them a quick message is how are you doing today? Because for me, that’s important as the first key step, because if I know that you are, hey, I’m not sure how to tell snide because you know, whomever knows what happened? I would say, okay, take it easy. If you need help, if you need something, just tell me because that human part, engage you and motivates you more than just say, Hey, by the way, it’s 10am, we remember that you needed to deliver something that we talked about last week. And that creates a little bit more of a psychological safety. You know, say that you are you care about me as a person not only as a person that provides something to the company,


Adam  24:41

I find in these conversations in within myself a conflict. On one hand side, we’re saying, let’s be more human, to each other. Let’s show care. On the other hand side, we’re saying how can technology help us do that? Really, so or Is that the natural thing for us to unpack is to say managers are so busy, and organizations care so much about managers doing certain things, that they’re going to help them route be reminded they’re going to help them structure it maybe five times on the calendar. I know we’re now like literally scratching the next frontier, we’re not even at the final frontier, we’re talking about the next frontier. But I think somewhere in there is this idea of consumerization and human humanization of the employee experience. The point what what do you think?


Napoleon Grinshpan  25:34

Well, you know, what technology has changed so much in the last, let’s say, at least four years, the pace of new things coming out all the time and trying to make your life easier. It’s now like with a speed of light, I know that people would say we’re losing touch, in terms of with reality with one another, I think the opposite way. While sometimes like, you know, the face to face that kinetic connection that we had in the past, people feel feel that it’s losing, but we are creating a different muscle, which is the distance connection. And I can put you an example. I mean, we I deal with so many global people, I have the only in my career. For me, it would be very difficult to take a plane and go to China and just to check how people are. But I have now so many different ways to take care of that. I know, some people would say, you know, we’ll be opposite to what I’m saying right now. But, you know, we have to use the elements that we have today, which is a great elements of technology, to have the closest connection with the people that we can’t be closer. And even if I can’t be in person, they’re just by expressing my message to my deliver in my communication, that it’s meaningful, that it’s direct, that helps them understand that I do care, that I can use so many different tools and elements. It is just to make sure that you are there you are present, either physical or virtual, but you are expressing that there is a care there is a person there on the other side. Does it make sense?


Adam  27:20

Yeah. So you’re saying technology is enabling us to really be more connected for us to do the kinds of things we haven’t been able to do. So how do we embrace it, so that we can move toward a more human, more human way to work? Napoleon, I, you know, want to leave our audience with with a couple thoughts from you, you know, just just reminder, the folks that are listening in are typically Champions of Change, right? It doesn’t have to be change management, it could be l&d operational, there’s all kinds of functional areas, but they are the ones who get it. They want to create change within their organizations. What would be maybe one piece of advice that you could say, Hey, this is how you continue your journey. This is this is what to look for this is how to get internal buy in, really just any piece of advice you could give them for them to continue their journey as they look to move toward the future of their people initiatives.


Napoleon Grinshpan  28:17

This is something that we always do when we start a global project, and I have any transformational processes in the past. When you start thinking about changing something for your people, I think the first element that you need that needs to be on your mind is what’s in it for me not for you as the person driving the change. But what’s in it for me for the person receiving the change, if you can identify that in a very easy way in there in a way that that, you know, as we started at the beginning, saying it should be very simple, then you need to rethink it. Because the What you Need should be very mindful, obvious and easy for the person that will receive the change to identify, even with any complex or very difficult projects or difficult initiative, you need to make that pattern that way of what you want to change a way that I can digest it in a very easy way. And that can help me to engage for well, from the very beginning. That’s the key of any change.


Adam  29:25

So interesting, because it is the key, but it’s also has some complexity to it because you’ve got a large organization, you know, lots of roles, lots of functional functions. And when you ask the question of what does this mean to you, depending on who you are. And to simplify it, right to take out the you know, the the corporate language where it’s very difficult to understand what it means, but it actually is clear. That’s a task. 


Napoleon Grinshpan  29:55

And that’s why you need somebody from change management to help you and communications I always partner with them. Because it’s you need to peel the onion in a way that you know, the person receiving the change or embracing the new, whatever, whatever you want to do kind of understand the core without make them cry, because when you peel onions and make you cry so much. So what I’m trying to say is like, you need to translate that in words that I would say my nine year old daughter would understand. So it’s not because they’re a child or a kid, but it’s because you need to translate things in a way that are simple. We tried to overcomplex things put in so many fancy words, so many, like this creative con grandiose concepts, and sometimes that’s not what you know, our receiver wants to know, he wants to know, well, what’s in it for me? Am I going not only to have a job, but it’s gonna be easier to make it. So we need to use those words in a more easy way for people to fill, engage, appreciated, and taking into consideration


Adam  31:04

global change management that makes things relevant so that a nine year old can understand the bar has been set. Napoleon, thank you, and thank you for your time. Thank you for your brilliance this This was fun. I look forward to doing it again in the future.


Napoleon Grinshpan  31:17

Likewise, thank you so much.


Adam  31:19

All right over and out.

Adam Fridman
Serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker, Adam is a co-founder and one of the visionaries behind ProHabits. Currently, he hosts ProHabits' podcast: The Future of People Initiatives.

Related Articles

See All
August 15th
Employers paid over $51 billion dollars in 2010 for workers compe ...
November 5th
Personal change is difficult. Executive coaching helps indivi ...
June 15th
Pamela Stroko, is the VP of HCM Transformation & Thought Lead ...
Develop your people, scale your business.
Grow your people, grow your business.
Get ideas delivered to you
Sign up to read our latest report ideas on employee behaviors, cultures and professional habits.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.