In this episode we talk to Emily Goligoski, Head of Research at Charter about employee wellbeing, rest, and post-pandemic worklife.
In this episode we talk to Emily Goligoski, head of research at Charter. We discuss the workplace revolution, employee well-being and retention, and the benefits of remote work. Emily stresses the importance of compensation for feedback, mentorship, coaching, and sponsorship programs to boost employee retention. We also talk about remote work giving employees more autonomy, time back in their day, and more opportunities for diversity and inclusion.
- Rest is Resistance by Tricia Hersey
- Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Find all of our guests’ reading recommendations at our The Tao of WAO book club.
- Emily’s website
- What we know now about remote and hybrid mentorship
- Business leaders tell Charter: Employee mental wellbeing is a top priority, and they’re unsure where their teams will be working one year from now
- ‘Bring Your Full Self to Work’ day
- Reverse mentoring: Is it right for IT?
Tao of WAO S06 E02
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:24] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Laura Hilliger.
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:37] And I’m Doug Belshaw. This podcast season is currently partially unfunded, so you can support this podcast and other open projects and products at open collective.com forward slash. We are open. So today we’re talking to Emily Goligoski, writer and researcher and a former colleague of both of us. Emily is currently head of research at Charter, which is an organisation with a mission to transform every workplace and to catalyse a new era of dynamic organisations where all workers thrive, which sounds quite related to co ops to us. Anyway, so welcome, Emily.
Emily Goligoski: [00:01:14] Thank you. I’m so happy to be here and to be in conversation with you. Laura and Doug and past work at Mozilla Foundation introduced me to both of your smarts, and I just love what you’re doing with the show. I also have to give a shout out. There is an amazing email newsletter called Dense Discovery, and this is how Laura and I sort of reconnected and which is very much about the themes that we’re going to talk about today, about the attention economy. And I think. Productive, progressive ways forward.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:48] I think all three of us have been featured in Discovery now.
Emily Goligoski: [00:01:51] Really, he’s an amazing guy, Kai is doing really wonderful work.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:55] And so that is actually the common thread. So that’s pretty awesome.
Laura Hilliger: [00:01:58] Yeah. Kai is the common thread, not Mozilla. Well, we always start our podcast by asking whatever guest we have, whomever happens to be there, about their favourite book. So Emily, do you want to tell us a little bit about your favourite book at the moment?
Emily Goligoski: [00:02:18] Yes, I am listening to Tricia Hersey’s ‘Rest is Resistance’. So Tricia created the Nap Ministry here in the US and pathetically it has taken me about seven months to get around to spending time with this book and I’m listening to the audiobook, which just hearing the texture of her voice is excellent and she has so many ways of thinking and talking about grind culture and ways through it, responses to it. And some of the design exercises that she introduces in the book are just a joy to behold. It is a book that is well worth your time and I think very related to themes that are that that matter to many of us.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:05] So seven months between her being published and you listening to it is not a long is not a long time, Emily! So sometimes it takes me years to get through to it. And I wonder, like, how on earth have I not read this book before now? And then I read all the reviews and all the stuff that I’ve missed and all the conversations that have been online about how wonderful things are. So yeah, the fact that I might get to read this within a year based on your recommendation is fantastic.
Emily Goligoski: [00:03:31] Um, highly recommend. And you know, I think that part of the reason I am so interested is resistance right now is, um, you know, we are on the heels of the Girlboss movement and seeing, you know, I think some, some high profile investigations into ways that this grind culture does not work for many of us. And it just I’m reading it at the right moment and I wish I’d read it sooner.
Laura Hilliger: [00:04:06] Yeah, we’re doing some work with a global non-profit called WEAll, which is a economic well-being organisation, network organisation. And just yesterday we were having a little bit of a conversation around how well well-being is pretty at odds with a lot of the kind of work culture that we’re brought up to understand, including digital well-being. So like everything being monetised, everything like being quote unquote productive all the time, all the time, it’s actually really detrimental to us as humans. Um, and yeah, so these themes that we’re going to be talking about over the next 30 or 40 minutes are they’re all very fresh in our minds.
Emily Goligoski: [00:04:54] It also raises a question for me, Laura, about when we talk about productivity, we’re often looking at that as a short term. How much can you get done in a day and a night? I like to reframe it in terms of thinking about total lifetime value or total contributions over a lifetime. So if I am able to do work that engages me where I feel like I’m contributing to a team and I have reasonable expectations of what my output is, I’m more likely to want to do that work longer. And so really thinking about this over the course of the lifespan I think is critically important. We have such short term thinking when it comes to economic productivity and how we and how we measure that. And I would really like to see us sort of factor, especially with people living longer and factor a different set of considerations into how we think about topics like employee satisfaction, output, GDP, etc.
Laura Hilliger: [00:06:01] I mean, since you say over the course of a lifetime, I would love if you could tell us a little bit about your career path and a little bit about how you ended up at Charter and what you’re doing now. What’s the through line through your career?
Emily Goligoski: [00:06:18] Oh, I would be happy to talk about that. I am the child and grandchild of journalists. I grew up very much with an expectation that sustaining independent news was was really a a right and a obligation that that all of us have and so had studied journalism, had worked in arts and culture reporting for the Cape Times in South Africa, and became quite interested in how news organisations could thrive in the in the years ahead. You know, this was when we saw a major change in the in sort of print and digital advertising and the economics of media organisations, particularly local news, were were really changing. And I went and did a master’s degree in learning design and technology at Stanford and got really excited about design thinking and the work of the Design Institute and the school in huge part because of the focus of going to people where they’re at, being in conversation with them and co-designing solutions together, not just a group of people sitting around a room in an office and thinking, Oh, we know the best way forward, but really this user needs orientation has sort of guided me throughout my career, and that academic work took me to the New York Times, where I had the great privilege of being the first audience researcher embedded in the newsroom and getting to work with reporters and editors to understand who are the people you want to reach with this coverage, who are not paying attention to it today, and what can it do for them? Whether that is help them prepare for a meeting or to guide their friends in a conversation about a topic they might not otherwise think about.
Emily Goligoski: [00:08:17] And in the other organisations that I have been fortunate to work at, including The Atlantic and the Membership Puzzle Project, this fascination around go to people who we’ve otherwise considered news consumers and find out about their habits, their behaviours, their aspirations has been incredibly useful. And I was leading the research practice most recently at The Atlantic, including through the pandemic and some of The Atlantic’s coverage. Science coverage has been absolutely phenomenal on on this topic. And we we gained a new set of subscribers who had really never spent time with The Atlantic’s journalism and seeing a a a magazine brand grow in that way was just absolutely fascinating. And I probably would still be there had the had the team from Charter not said, you know, we we really see that the world of work is changing. We need timely responses to it. And Charter was co-founded by Aaron Grau, who I had worked with at the Times. Kevin Delaney, who had been a business editor at the Wall Street Journal, co-founder of Quartz, and now our editor in chief, and Jay Lauf, who was also at The Atlantic.
Emily Goligoski: [00:09:43] And. It originally started as an email newsletter early in the pandemic to very much address, you know, workplace transformation as it related to location. And this was before the Delta and Omicron surges, and it seemed like the pandemic might be this short lived sort of blip on the radar. We now know that, of course, that is not the case. But in publishing this email newsletter called Reset Work at the time and Kevin Delaney started to get requests from CEOs and chief people officers who said, you know, I need a little bit more on how do I actually manage in this hugely transformative period. I started reading it and our leadership team at The Atlantic very much used it as a playbook for guiding remote teams. And one quick aside that I will offer here is when Doug, Laura and I had worked together at Mozilla Foundation. It was it was a hybrid organisation and I don’t think I valued at the time how far ahead these ways of working were. And we’re now seeing, you know, a a major, especially for knowledge workers, a major global shift towards these more flexible ways of working. And Doug, I think I think you may have something to add on this.
Doug Belshaw: [00:11:09] I just wanted to pick up on what you said there about Mozilla, because I was I was pretty much fully remote at Mozilla. And I remember how much I appreciated the fact that there was a there was a policy of like, we’re all remote and you had to set up meetings as if people could dial in and everything like that. And just how, as you say, how far ahead of its time that was because ten years later we’re helping clients think about that kind of stuff.
Laura Hilliger: [00:11:38] I think, I mean, the pandemic definitely opened my eyes to how far ahead we were at the time. Just the influx of people that we had coming to us that were that were looking for skills that I didn’t realise were advanced. One of the first things that we did at the co op when the pandemic hit was we quickly wrote an email course about how to have a virtual meeting. That’s empowering and interesting. And you know, because one of the things that we were seeing really early in the pandemic was like people were doing online meetings and just not a lot of engagement. It was quite a lot of boring stuff was happening. And there are just some of the skills that we learned ten, 15 years ago with this remote working stuff that I didn’t actually realise were skills. I guess I thought it was just, I don’t know, I just I thought everybody on the internet worked like this. So the pandemic really opened my eyes to.
Emily Goligoski: [00:12:37] And this is something we’ll talk about. I mean, we are certainly we’re on the verge of a workplace revolution. And like the agricultural and industrial and Internet revolutions before this one, we’re seeing that it’s radically changing things. It’s changing our physical workplaces, our relationships with our careers. And at Charter, we very much saw, oh, there was no playbook for this new world of work. And we’re talking a lot about sort of where and how people work. This also relates to considerations like pay transparency, like diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and so, so much more. And I joined Charter about six months ago to lead the research practice. And we’re a group of social science researchers who study transformation and and including what are the considerations that are front of mind for business leaders and for members of their staff. And we’ll unpack a bit of what we’re finding, because it’s been it’s been really rich. And I would encourage we have a free three times a week email newsletter charter works.com and that I really consider it like some of our book briefings and our interviews are really meant to bridge research, to practice. The idea is not just you know, this is a space when we talk about work because it’s personal and professional, everyone has an opinion. But if we look at the data, if we go back to what do we know based on patterns of human behaviour, I think it can teach us a lot.
Laura Hilliger: [00:14:18] Yeah. One of the one of the things that I’m really interested in learning from you today is who who are you doing research with? Because I definitely see that there’s some trends happening in the world of work and in particular in the technology industry. And I’m curious about the people that you’re asking questions to and the places that you’re gathering information. Are you including a wide spectrum of different. How to say different kinds of organisations, so nonprofits, cooperatives for profits, NGOs. I’m just kind of wondering if you’re across the board or if you’re more focused on like corporate for profit companies.
Emily Goligoski: [00:15:09] Yeah, we absolutely look across the board and I think including governmental organisations, I have really loved the conversations I’ve had with some people who are almost intrapreneurs within their government agencies and they bring a level of resourcefulness to their work that I find really compelling. And you know, we look regardless of tax status, to put it bluntly, and we are as interested in what comes out of a really thoughtful non-profit or co-op as we are a Fortune 500 company. And and one thing that I would mention is also in addition to sort of organisational structure, I’m really interested in looking across industries because I think a lot of recent workplace research has been very focussed on technology companies, retail. I want to look at manufacturing organisations, I want to look at companies that have a lot of frontline workers and, and so it is important when we think we are and this is something from the Atlantic also, we want to make sure we’re not just talking to people whose opinions on these topics are frequently solicited. And from a research perspective, it requires a little bit more planning. How do we go to people who have never been asked about their experiences on on this topic? And so we’re just getting started with research partnerships. We have worked with organisations like Qualtrics who are sort of the gold standard when it comes to survey based research and employee experience data. And then there’s a number of firms that we’re interested in collaborating with who do employee experience data collection at big box retailers, at hospitals, at places where I think not many researchers are not enough. Researchers have gone to understand considerations like burnout, employee satisfaction, upskilling performance management and so much more.
Doug Belshaw: [00:17:28] It’s interesting, isn’t it, because a lot of the times it seems – and that’s kind of what you’ve just said there – has opened my eyes to how many times people go to, “Oh, how do technology companies use technology? Let’s have a look at how Google uses technology and let’s have a look at how Microsoft uses technology.” Whereas actually that’s not as an interesting question, as you say, is how organisations have to use technology to do a thing which they have to achieve, use technology. So yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating work. How do you. How do you start there? My wife’s a user researcher for the NHS and, like, find getting to the people who are who are never asked The question is so difficult. Like. Like how do you how do you do that?
Emily Goligoski: [00:18:13] So first, I would love to engage in conversation with her. I was recently speaking with the Chief Research Officer at Feeding America, Tom Sommerfeld, and his organisation is, you can think of it almost as a network of food banks across the United States, and obviously reliance on their services have increased massively over the course of the past three years. And I would also argue that the stigma, social stigma around seeking those benefits has come to the fore in a way that is potentially really, really productive, that it’s something that we can talk about as a culture where it used to feel maybe shameful. And I asked him this question sort of. The interaction between a volunteer at a food bank and a person seeking food assistance could feel very transactional. And it’s actually not a great moment to be be gathering insights because it can feel it can feel broken in a lot of ways. And Tom had this excellent philosophy about he said, Well, just like we would pay a high tier consultancy to do work for us, when we are conducting any survey based data, we compensate people appropriately for their lived experiences, that we are mindful that, you know, if we’re not able to offer them anywhere from US dollar equivalent of $10 to $25 for about 15 minutes of their time for feedback, we’re we’re just as transactional as as what we’re trying to avoid. And so they have they’ve also introduced a few pieces of their data collection that I find really fascinating. So things like it used to be that a volunteer would hand a person a physical piece of paper to to fill out right there the awkwardness of that interaction. Just there was a better way to do it.
Emily Goligoski: [00:20:28] And so what they now have is an invitation and an explanation of here’s how we’ll use your feedback. It will be collected in in aggregate. There’s no way it will be tied back to you or to this interaction. So digital privacy first and foremost. And. And also tying it back to here is how the insights here’s how what you share with us is going to is going to help change interactions you have with volunteers. It’s going to help improve considerations about making the foods that you want available. So I think connecting, like, the reason for asking with potential output and change they can expect to see. And then it’s it’s a very short digital survey that they’re invited to participate in on their own time and in private. And he said that all of these changes really have sort of improved first their their completion rate and also the quality of data. So hearing insights like, oh, it would be hugely useful if I had more of an in-store shopping experience. I give me more control in this situation, not just collect a bag of random foods that have been prepared for me. And so I think a lot about about that when it comes to how do we compensate people for their own experiences. And, you know, I am mindful that when it comes to any usability testing, sometimes we are reliant on friends and family to give us feedback. But as much as possible trying to go beyond to people we don’t know, people who are maybe unlike us or who can complicate or disprove the story that we have going about ourselves internally. The main thing isn’t it is really important.
Doug Belshaw: [00:22:24] We’re kind of wired for validation and for, like, “I am showing you this thing. Do you think it is cool?”
Emily Goligoski: [00:22:34] We all have biases that we bring to work. We’re all human. And so, you know, and some of this shows up in how we conduct interviews, active listening. And I try to remind the teams I work with that if we’re showing any kind of work in progress, it’s not a demo situation. It really is an opportunity for us to watch and listen and learn.
Doug Belshaw: [00:23:02] Mm. So there’s so much stuff we could kind of dive into. Laura, Is anything you want to get into with Emily in particular? I think you’ve made some notes on our pad.
Laura Hilliger: [00:23:12] We have too many notes on our pad, which makes it hard to choose which one to talk about. But I. Yeah, I have been. Emily was kind enough to share some links with us, which we’ll put in the show notes to some of the recent research. And I was quite interested in the employee mental wellbeing as a top priority piece of research. I thought there was lots of interesting facts that you revealed that I was quite surprised by that. For me, the number one was that like the title of the study, that employee mental wellbeing is a priority for these for these companies. And I was I was curious about some of the data that that you that you collected and that study in particular. How did how are they showing that employee wellbeing is important to them and is a priority? What kind of changes are these? I think it was 507 different organisations. What kind of changes are they implementing to try and make people happier and like happier to go to work, more motivated to work.
Emily Goligoski: [00:24:30] And and also, I think this has bearings on retention. How likely are you to stay with the organisation that employs you? So this was based on Charter’s semi-annual survey of American business leaders. So it is sort of looking domestically for us. I would love to take this study international and and you know, the I was as surprised as you were, Laura, to see that employee mental well-being topped the list of concerns that these business leaders have. And these are sort of executive leaders and their deputies. So people who are real decision makers and also have sort of power of the purse when it comes to, um, what what sort of coaching resources do you offer? What sort of benefits do do you offer? And we are going back into field with this particular question here in April because we want to, you know, amidst an economic downturn or economic headwinds, we really want to understand. So you’ve said that’s a priority. How does that show up in considerations like meeting overload? How does it show up in flexibility that that you offer in time for caregiving, in connecting staff with much needed mental health provisions? And this, as well as DEI are two areas that that we really hear. You know, we’re we’re investing time and energy into them.
Emily Goligoski: [00:26:14] How that shows up in employee experiences in the longer term is of great interest to me. And I would say there’s there’s one thing to note here, which is that we really are in this historic moment of increased worker self-determination. Um, you know, yes, there we hear a lot about layoffs, especially within big tech. We also know that for skilled jobs as well as for frontline jobs, there is this sort of battle for talent that really is ongoing and that we you know, we know that work over time has to change with society. And I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but if we think of the civil rights movement, technological advancements and now life after lockdown, and we do have this chance to reset to better for more of our people. One place where I just to come back to your question, Laura, one place where I do see this showing up is in employees. Demanding of their companies that they provide more caregiving benefits and more health benefits. And we know that mental health is health. It is part and parcel of of that second bucket and and, you know, interest not just in what is the salary that I could expect to make in this job, but what is the entire package.
Emily Goligoski: [00:27:46] What are what is my total compensation look like including: What is your policy around vacation time? What is you know, if I need to care for an elderly loved one or a child or a pet, am I going to get pushback from my manager? And this also this this sort of like, no, no, no, think about me as a whole person who is coming to work for you also relates to all kinds of on the job considerations, like what is your internal mobility strategy? Do I need to wait a year or a number of years before I can raise my hand for an internal promotion or to move and to use and grow my skill sets in in really important ways? The last thing I’ll say on this is that organisations that are resourceful and creative when it comes to, okay, we have this person who is really committed to our work but who is growing beyond the capacity of their role. We don’t have an opportunity to sort of or or the budget to, to boost them title and responsibility wise. What other opportunities do we have here that they could be a great fit for with some with some training? And those organisations are absolutely poised to succeed, especially in this financial moment.
Doug Belshaw: [00:29:17] When I tell people that when I was a teacher, people there was a… It was a common thing to do. We used to have like those pigeon holes, you know, like with memos and all that kind of stuff. It was that long ago, but people used to put job opportunities in your pigeon hole, not because they didn’t want to see you again and didn’t like you, but because there’s there’s a promotion kind of hierarchy within the the teaching sector and education. So you knew what your next step was. They were giving you an opportunity to say, have you seen this job, etcetera. And and that kind of maturity of a of a sector to say like, oh, your next step is probably not going to be in this organisation, it’s probably going to be somewhere else, along with not paying people like we have in big tech so much money that they feel like they can’t move or the perks are so great in this particular job that I have to stay here because I’m not going to get those kind of perks elsewhere. It’s like not just organisational cultural maturity, it’s like sectoral. Kind of maturity. And I wonder how that kind of I guess that’s through demonstration and through your organisation and the research that you do, sharing those insights and people going, Oh, actually that organisation over there does that. Maybe we need to start thinking about that too. And I wondered how you see if you can see that in practice, especially after the pandemic. Is that like on hyperdrive, people kind of ideas cascading throughout sectors like that?
Emily Goligoski: [00:30:47] You know, it is, it is interesting. And when we think about here in the US and bank collapses, this idea of how information spreads and the action that that people take with their resources, this is a very timely consideration. You also raise sort of. One individual’s sort of loyalty to their field and teaching is an excellent example. I think about health care also, where because of being historically undervalued for their really meaningful contributions, they become a great place for other industries to to poach talent from. And that I foresee a real crisis if we lose dedicated individuals with a lot of on the job knowledge in those fields. You know, this conversation also makes me think about the importance of modelling and mentorship. And we had done a study recently with Qualtrics. Understanding the experiences of about 3000 desk based employees in the US. And I was just astounded to see how much mentorship boosted retention that when. Individual mentees had the opportunity to meet regularly with someone with knowledge to offer them and when it was supported by their organisations. They were more than they were 1.5 times as likely to stay at their current organisation for over five years. And that’s really important because it costs a lot for organisations to to replace their employees estimated at 1.5 times twice their annual salary.
Emily Goligoski: [00:32:45] And and when I say recognition, you know, we know a lot about how companies that train their staff to mentor well they don’t just think, oh, mentors are born. People walk in with this skill. No, no, no. It can. It really is an area that can be taught and organisations that formally recognise their contributions to their mentees in the form of this is something that’s included in an, you know, an annual or semi annual performance management review that it’s included as a factor for compensation, that the time that a mentor spends with their mentee is valued and protected, that, you know, this not only helps with sort of two way skill building, both for the mentor and the mentee, but again, it keeps those mentees on staff longer and coaching and sponsorship are topics I’m similarly eager to study for all the reasons that you that you point out. Doug, You know, we talk a lot about what doesn’t work and there is so much there as we look at sort of solutions. Well, what does make people more satisfied in in their work? What does get them ready to take on an ambitious next challenge? That’s where I’m really eager to spend my research time.
Laura Hilliger: [00:34:10] I think this is an interesting direction. If we think about how how people feel when they feel like they fit. So like, I mean, this is a well-being question for me, but also I think there comes a certain point in your career or in an individual’s career where they start to think about what they really want out of their working life. And it’s not always a promotion and it’s not always the next thing and it’s not always growth and it’s not always a salary. A lot of times the things that people want are things like autonomy or flexibility or, you know, I’m thinking of an example. I have a friend who was recently offered a promotion and she turned it down because she was happy in her job, period, full stop. She was happy doing the kind of work that she was doing. She’s been doing it for a long time. She feels competent in her role. She’s been recognised for her talent in that role. And so, you know, and she’s at a place in her career where she’s just like, no, I don’t I don’t need something more than what I have. I feel recognised for who I am and I like what I do. And I think that that’s sort of a sign of something that can lead to more retention is the sheer well-being and happiness of people finding their place within an organisation that actually cares about them.
Emily Goligoski: [00:35:39] I love that. Kudos to your friend for for this recognition like that suggests a level of maturity on her part and on on the organisation’s part. Two things that come immediately to mind. I have a friend who talks about, you know, when you’re thinking about making a career move, there’s there’s three considerations autonomy, mastery and purpose. And no one role is going to fulfil all those things to the same extent at the same time. But if you can get really clear as a job candidate, which of those matter to me the most right now and what will that look like for me? That that those sets of considerations have always been really, really useful for me. Autonomy, mastery and purpose. The second is I’m excited to see and maybe this is a longer term change, you know, it used to be we were so fascinated with this idea of a career ladder, work your way to the corner office through grinds, do whatever it takes to get there, sort of this reverse pyramid. Except there’s there’s a big problem with that ladder metaphor, which is like gravity. You’re more likely to go down than up. And so at Charter, we talk a lot about career passports. What does it look like to be thinking about different skills? You want to gain different experiences that you want to have? I just think it’s a more holistic way of thinking about our professional contributions over the lifespan.
Doug Belshaw: [00:37:15] We were talking to one of our former members of our co-op and now collaborator, Bryan Mathers, who you’ll have seen through the images that he drew for the open badges work and things. And we were trying to kind of come up with some different visual metaphors. And one of the ones which we came up with last week was a difference between a ladder and a climbing wall. The climbing wall, sometimes you have to go down or sideways or take a different route to everyone else. And it just I think he’s drawing that probably as we speak to try and come up with that visual metaphor to try and explain to people it’s okay not to just go straight upwards. I love the idea of gravity always pulling you, you downwards. That’s that’s definitely a consideration.
Emily Goligoski: [00:37:56] You know. There are systemic really, there are these systemic forces that whether that is considerations around. Gender, ethnicity, sexuality in the workplace that really are forces that have kept so many talented people from growing their their careers and. I’m excited to see that visual because I think it’s an excellent way to say sometimes you need to take a pause. Sometimes the best move is actually a lateral one.
Doug Belshaw: [00:38:32] I think it’s really interesting. Like as a as a man, you’re supposed to always be, like, driving onwards and providing for your family and all these kind of gender norms and stuff. And I remember I was only half joking when I first said it. I must have been late 30s And I said to my wife and friends like, I’ve achieved all I wanted to do. Now the rest is just like me enjoying the ride kind of thing. But the number of men who I’ve spoken to since the pandemic who have almost used those exact words of like, I’ve done what I need to do now and now, like the rest of it, is just me deciding how I want to spend the rest of my time like doing all of that. My dad used to really inappropriate, like, talk about thrusting, like you’re going almost like going up. And then then the rest of it is, is orbit to kind of mix all my metaphors together. Um, I think it’s interesting that people are willing to use that language explicitly, that they’ve achieved all they want to achieve in terms of external success, and the rest of it is what matters to them internally.
Emily Goligoski: [00:39:32] I wonder, you know, it’s interesting we’re talking about this in terms of the language of achievement. I think about it in terms of inquiry, like what is it that I want to know? What is it that I want to learn? Over the course of my career is a totally different orientation that I think we’re just now able to have in in more thoughtful ways.
Doug Belshaw: [00:39:59] Mhm. So kind of building on the mentorship thing, I really like the idea. So if someone wanted to get started with mentorship, wanted to be a mentor or wanted to find a mentor, I see people on LinkedIn say like, Oh, you know, I’m I’m open to mentoring people or I’d love to find a mentor or whatever. How would organisations get started with that? How like do they need to start an official program? Like if you informally wanted to find a mentor or a mentee, how would you go about doing that? Or are there ways in which you’ve found kind of really work?
Emily Goligoski: [00:40:36] So casual mentorship absolutely has benefits. There’s also a key limitation, which is it really relies on a mentees ability to network effectively internally. And we think a great deal about how do you make the implicit explicit. So if there are power structures to know about, if there are individuals who are real leaders in their space, how can that be made more transparent to a person who is new to an organisation, who is new to their function, who historically has been sort of kept out of that, being able to being able to see those pathways. So I think this is an area I know this is an area where formal mentorships that start on an employee’s first day are really powerful. And and. Ones that that work really well. There’s a very clear goal setting conversation at the beginning. What do you know and what do you want to know? And by the way, this mentorship goes two ways. Again, it’s like a ladder. There’s only so much that a mentor can offer, can can bestow upon their mentee. I’ve been so encouraged by examples where mentors say this gave me a completely new way of thinking about about either a skill set that I didn’t have or a consideration in in our organisation that I had just never seen it through that lens before. So I think it’s incredibly skill building and empathy inducing, and…
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:18] Like a reverse reverse mentorship kind of thing.
Emily Goligoski: [00:42:21] Exactly. Yeah. I also think, um, you know, we have seen examples and a lot of these are from within the manufacturing space where the mentee, after a period of time is given the opportunity to mentor someone else. And this makes all the sense in the world from what we know about learning theory of giving people skills that they can then impart on others is is sort of the world’s best way to embed that that knowledge. There’s one other thing that I would mention around formal mentorship as it relates to sort of success. Regularity of those conversations matters more than other factors. And this is really exciting actually, because we were talking about hybrid work at the beginning and the. I think there is this long standing idea that there really are reasons we need to get everyone back into the office. And one of them is is mentorship. And that actually doesn’t bear out in our data. We see that frequency of meetings matters so much more than where they happen. So maybe you meet in person if if that’s an option available to you at the start of the relationship, just to get to know each other a bit. But then if you can keep meeting weekly and that happens on the phone, if that happens on video, if that happens in person, as long as you’re sort of checking in, this is what I’m trying to do. How do I get there? How do I overcome this challenge that I have and that it’s it’s hard to understate how much that regularity and consistency matters more than other factors.
Doug Belshaw: [00:44:16] That’s how you get close to people, isn’t it? It’s interesting. Even on our row of houses, I feel a lot close to my neighbours in the spring through the summer because we’re outside together more. I live in the north east of England. It’s cold in winter and you go between your car and your house and you never see anybody, so you feel closer the more interactions you have with someone. So that would totally yeah, that would totally make sense. Interesting.
Emily Goligoski: [00:44:37] Now there there is one rub here which we see in management, and that’s proximity bias. That is the idea that the person who is geographically closest to me or who I see most in person is the right person for the job. And so we have coached a lot of executives around sort of acknowledging and overcoming that bias. And we’ll hear it in sort of throwaway comments. You know, everyone on my team is great. I find that the person who’s most committed is the one who comes in to the office several days a week. That’s proximity bias. And when we become aware of it and we can say, you know what, how are we making sure that plum assignments are equally distributed so that everyone has has a chance, not just the person who I have the benefit of getting to see most regularly again, we all have biases. It’s being aware of them and working collaboratively through them that that really matters. Can I say one other thing on hybrid work?
Laura Hilliger: [00:45:48] Because whatever you want, Emily. Look at us. We’re just, like, hanging on your every word. Keep talking.
Emily Goligoski: [00:45:57] Um, you know, hybrid work, when it’s done right can offer the benefits of remote working. And we all have experienced these flexibility, productivity, reduced operating costs to our employers, increased employee satisfaction with the strengths of traditional co-located work like collaboration and coordination and networking. This is why at Mozilla Foundation it was so valuable that we would come together in person several times a year and we would use that for what it was best for considerations like onboarding, like socialising, like volunteering together, and what those really valuable in-person days are not are not best for is taking different video calls side by side. Yeah. Co-location like that is um, as Erica Kesrwan and author who we frequently work with says like that is working side by side. That’s not worth the commute.
Doug Belshaw: [00:47:06] Yes right. Yeah definitely. Definitely. Especially when the commute is flying to a different country and then everyone is is doing things side by side that they could have been doing on the end of a zoom call or whatever. Interesting.
Emily Goligoski: [00:47:19] That’s right. I am encouraged by seeing organisations take their offsites much more seriously than they had in years past. So there is an organisation called Greenhouse Software and what they do is they actually did away with their San Francisco office over about the past 18 months, but they said we are going to put those resources into co-locating team off sites. So how do we make sure that Laura and Doug, who might work on completely different disciplines, have proximity to one another and and do have the opportunities for some of the serendipitous conversations? Um, because those, those connections are important and frankly, they’re just fun too. They’re fun to have.
Laura Hilliger: [00:48:11] Yeah, we just actually, We Are Open had our first meetup in January since before the pandemic. So we went three years and we were the co op was quite, um, we had some stuff going on during the pandemic. We were really leaning into helping people start to use technology in different ways. Some of humane digital wellbeing things had a lot of projects. We worked together, saw each other all the time. Um, but we hadn’t actually been in the same room for three years. And we in January of this year we saw each other again in real life. I forgot that Doug is tall.
Doug Belshaw: [00:48:52] And I forgot that you’re small. So, but the interesting thing for me is that I met Anne in person for the first time, was reminded about how much of a dynamo small person Laura is, but also when I worked at Jisc and Higher Education before I started in Mozilla, I remember going back to the mentorship and meeting online offline. Like it seemed to me that projects which started together and met in person and had the full spectrum 3D humanness kind of thing and then met online seemed to do even better than the ones who met online, then met in person, then met online. At the end of it. There’s something about meeting in person like which is really important, which we shouldn’t get away from, but I think it’s fetishised a little bit too much sometimes. So yeah, trying to get that balance is important.
Emily Goligoski: [00:49:42] You said it perfectly and I think planning, you know, it’s a privilege, especially when you have an international team to be able to bring people together. I would encourage it. And, and you know, at Charter, we’re really thoughtful when we have an opportunity to bring our team together from across the US for two days, we set it up. So there are different opportunities for knowledge sharing and for people to have expertise or to show their expertise beyond their day job. So that can be things like whoever’s local to the place that we’re meeting, taking people on neighbourhood tours and showing them their version of the city and volunteering together cannot stress the importance of that, not only for the the output of it, but also for working together on a challenge that is not the is not the one that you face sort of day to day and and then socialising, you know, for so often socialising at work. Really privileged people who did not have caregiving or caregiving commitments outside the office. So that looked like happy hours after work. Okay. Automatically that privileges people who can stay late, who can pay for those drinks, who drink. And I am enthusiastic that we are entering a new, more considerate way of working that is not maybe so focussed around alcohol as our as our means of gathering.
Doug Belshaw: [00:51:16] And it’s when you said about having someone showing them around their hometown, one of our clients has just kind of instituted a new policy, um, kind of by necessity, but then by design as well, where one of their employees doesn’t really like travelling. So they’re going to do all of their going to all meet together in his home town, um, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere and then he’s going to show round and everyone else gets to move in and kind of meet together and stuff. And then who knows what happens next time. But there’s so much flexibility you can have. Um, as you’ve shown during this conversation, Emily, like when you, you start just questioning little things around the edges and then there’s like a domino effect of like, oh, why do we do things like that? And the pandemic is like a catalyst for, for all of those changes.
Emily Goligoski: [00:52:03] We say at Charter that we’re a group of people who are impatient for change, that we are unsatisfied with the status quo around how we work. And, you know, often people will say, oh, but training online, that’s so difficult. Like I just I wait for those sort of moments of serendipity and and for someone to just internalise how we work by being in close, in close space with one another. It’s not that this work is impossible. It just requires a little bit more planning and curiosity about what are the tools that are best going to serve your team’s needs at the moment.
Laura Hilliger: [00:52:52] Well, I certainly think that Charter is putting some really interesting insights into the world. And it’s so nice to talk to you again. I was just thinking that we’re at the 52 minute mark, so maybe we want to have you back on a future episode and or we could just meet up online and say, hi. It’s so nice to connect with you again. And I’m really I want to just keep talking to you and pick your brain some more. So we should figure out how we can keep the conversation alive instead of waiting ten years and then seeing each other in a newsletter.
Emily Goligoski: [00:53:31] I remain committed to that. I love that. And I would be curious also and ask that I have is questions that your listeners have about workplaces and how do we make them better places to be so that workers can thrive. I am all ears. My email is emily charterworks.com
Doug Belshaw: [00:53:55] Great so people can find out more about Charter, a charter works.com about you personally and your fascinating career trajectory. You have a website as well. Do you want to tell people that?
Emily Goligoski: [00:54:05] Sure. It’s emilygoligoski.com.
Laura Hilliger: [00:54:12] And we will include that in the show notes. Thank you so much for being here.
Emily Goligoski: [00:54:18] Thanks for having me. Be well.
Doug Belshaw: [00:54:20] Thanks, Emily.