Whether you realize it or not, employees are a business’ unique asset. They are nonreplicable; no other competitor could acquire nor duplicate the people you have now. That is why, for this reason alone, businesses should learn how to take care of their employees. In this episode, Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down with the founder of Human Elements Consulting, Samuel Tanios, to talk about why small businesses, in particular, need to learn the value of their employees. He also discusses how to make them perform at a higher level, how to build a strong culture, how to become a visionary, and how to make the COVID-19 pandemic work for you instead of against you.
Continuing from that, Dr. Diane Hamilton also interviews Mark Dorman, the CEO of SThree, about how they are managing during this time of social distancing and remote work. With everyone forced to take their professional lives inside their homes, leading an organization has undeniably become more challenging. Mark shares some of the ways they are adapting, offering great insights for business owners and leaders alike to lead their teams and keep the communication lines going. If anything, the pandemic has become an accelerant for businesses and organizations to adapt to technology. Find out in this great episode how you can start doing this to your business as well and prepare for a different future.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Samuel Tanios and Mark Dorman here. Sam is the Founder at Human Elements Consulting and Mark is the CEO at SThree. We’re going to talk about a lot of things that make employees successful. I hope you stay tuned.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Why Employees Are A Business’ Unique Asset With Samuel Tanios
I am here with Sam Tanios, who is the Founder of multiple organizations and an entrepreneur who serves entrepreneurs. It’s nice to have you here, Sam.
Thanks, Diane, for having me.
I was looking forward to this. I’m interested in your background. I saw you were the Founder of Regis and Tancor Golf. I was looking at the list. You’ve founded quite a few different consulting and other types of organizations. I want to get a background on you for people who aren’t familiar with your work. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing?
I probably started out as an entrepreneur had started out back before VCs and PE companies were popular. I never fit into the corporate mold ever and I knew that early on but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I always tried to take advantage of opportunities or notice something and think, “It might be better if you do it this way or looked at ways of being able to do things more effectively and efficiently.” It’s not that I was a lazy person, but I thought, there’s got to be an easier way to do X instead of doing it this way.
I allowed myself at some point to not be normal. I had to accept that I was not normal. I didn’t think as “normal people” thought. I’ll embrace it and by the time I finally embraced it, it was probably in the early to late ‘90s. It started in college with Regis. It was an organization that I formed back in college to buy tax liens. In Illinois, you could buy tax liens as an investment and there’s a guaranteed return. I thought, “This is fantastic. Why wouldn’t everybody want to do this? This seems like a great thing,” but it wasn’t that popular. I tried to explore that opportunity. I founded the firm and we’re looking to raise capital to be able to invest. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We had commitments, but couldn’t raise enough for our first round. We tried it on our own and we had some moderate success, but certainly, not the success we were hoping for.
We looked at other opportunities. I did work in corporate for a while as I was trying to fund my habits of starting companies. I had a conversation with a good friend of mine in IT. I was working at the Chicago Board of Trade at the time and he was in IT. We were chatting and this was at the time that Netscape went public in ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, or somewhere around there. We were chatting about, “What could you do now that the general public can get on the internet?” He said, “We’ve been using the internet for years. That’s how I buy all the equipment for the department.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He described to me what they did. I thought, “That’s a great paradigm for any retail. I founded Tancor Golf. I’ve always had a major interest in golf and played it quite a bit.
It was an industry that I thought, “You want this golf club. Everybody knows what it is. You want to try it out, but if you can get it a little bit less expensive somewhere else through online shopping, why not?” We were one of the first exclusively online golf retail. We’re probably right at the time Amazon was out. I thought, “People are doing this for books. A golf club is a little more expensive than a book, but it’s a fairly homogenous product.” You have some brand loyalty and things like that. We ran into some issues with it and we had some success, but not what we had hoped for. I kept moving on to other things as they started to open up. One of the things that I had been working in for many years is on the people side of the business. I initially started as a benefits analyst at an insurance brokerage. Most of their clients were 500 employees and up. I did a lot of analysis of their benefit plans, wash ratios, etc.Doing things more effectively and efficiently is about looking for easier ways to do something. Click To Tweet
I worked on that and I then decided that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I explored other jobs, other avenues, graduate school, etc. to occupy my time to try and find other opportunities. The opportunity that I discovered and it took me some time to do which led me to Human Elements is that small businesses specifically are enormously ill-equipped and continue to pay lip service to the fact that their employees are the most important asset and resource they have in their organization. They continue to do and ignore it. There are service bureaus out there that continue to pay lip service to it.
I had wound up being in management consulting for a little bit and one of my clients was one of the big four consulting firms. One of their tenants and the way that they treated their existing employees and their former employees. The way that they operated openly and transparently and engaging the employee at every single level until they reached a point where you were either up or out. If you want to go out, we’re going to help you because we drive hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from our former employees. They leave here with such a great feeling of being part of a community not being a former employer. This finally puts the exclamation point on everything that I had been circling in my head of what organizations especially smaller organizations don’t do.
There are many small businesses in this country and the overwhelming majority of employees are employed by small businesses. Generally, businesses that have 100 employees or less. That’s the market that does not see the value or pay any real attention to the value. I say that generally. There are going to be outliers and there are going to be other organizations that take it seriously. For the most part, businesses like that do not pay a whole lot of attention to that asset. I talk about it as an asset and I’m not trying to be coy about it or anything along those lines. The way that you should be looking at your employees and this is part of what we do at Human Elements is we look at them as a unique asset. “This is an asset that you have that you’ve acquired that no other competitor can replicate. Why not take advantage of it and get the most ROI that you can out of it?”
I sometimes liken your employee base to almost your stock portfolio, if you have a stock portfolio or some investment portfolio. You don’t usually keep an investment in your portfolio that underperforms. Why would you keep an employee that underperforms? The unique thing about that is you don’t have to get rid of the asset. There is an opportunity to get that asset to perform at a higher level. You have more control over your assets in your employee portfolio than you do in your stock portfolio. You can’t get Apple to perform better. Apple is going to do what Apple does, but you have the ability to be able to control what your employees can and cannot do.
You talk about that and it ties into a lot of the work I do with building curiosity within workplaces. Many of these leaders in the research and I know from an HBR article when I was talking about this with Francesca Gino from Harvard. Many leaders think they encourage curiosity but like half of the employees believe that they do. I work with a lot of companies to help them recognize the things that keep them from being curious that they can move forward and build this culture. You’re talking about the smaller companies, the culture is much more compact because it doesn’t have to spread out among many people. Do you think it’s easier to get the CEOs and these small companies to build a strong culture? Is it any different for small and mid-size companies than for large ones?
I think it’s different because leadership is not their expertise. Especially the smaller organizations where you might have an engineer or architect that’s at a firm that goes out and says, “I want to do this on my own. I want to do it my way.” They are capable engineers and architects and whatever else they might be. Visionaries are somewhat unique and when large organizations look for CEOs and look for those individuals that are going to be leading the organization, they are looking for visionaries. They’re looking for a different skillset. Not that you can’t be a visionary, but it’s not ingrained in you because you haven’t developed those skills. I think for smaller organizations, they have to step outside of their comfort zone and start being a visionary.
It’s all about working on your business, not in your business mantra. The reality is that you as a business owner, if you’ve gone out and said, “I can do this better.” You’ve already had a vision, but what you don’t have is the skills to be able to hone that vision down into what needs to happen at the organizational level. How do you go about finding the right talent for your organization? Why are they the right talent? That’s a mess of a process when you’re trying to bring on employees because you haven’t refined the vision.
There’s a lot of refining of things going on. We’re in the midst of all this coronavirus situation and I’m sure you’re dealing with a lot of companies who may be floundering and not sure what to do, especially if you’re talking to a lot of small to mid-size businesses. I saw something that you wrote to me about making Coronavirus work for them. I’m curious about what you mean. How do you make it work for them?
I try to be as optimistic as possible and look for opportunities and that’s what an entrepreneur does. You look for opportunities. This has not been good for anybody across the board. It has not been productive for anybody at all but still, it brings to light some ways of being able to operate your business more efficiently and more effectively because of this. What I mean by that is as an example, many people have had to shelter in place, but some organizations still are doing business. There were a lot of business owners and there still are a lot of business owners that feel like I need to have my staff in my office so I know that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
This has proven that you don’t need that control or that perceived control over your employees. They can be far more productive working from home than they are working in an office. That gives you a couple of opportunities here. Number one, I don’t need this massive office space. That’s an expense I can live without. Secondly, I can work with my employees remotely. I know what I need to do because I’ve been forced to have to do it. Now, I have the ability to be able to do it. I’ve been forced into building that skill of managing remotely.
Thirdly, now that I have that skill, my pool of talent is not just in my backyard anymore. My pool of talent is anywhere in this country which means that I can now figure out a way to serve my clients who used to be here in my backyard. Now, it’s anywhere in the country I can serve a client. Now, anywhere in this country, I can bring on an employee. There’s technology out there that can make it happen. There are consultants and professionals out there that can help you make that happen. Employers are realizing that there is help out there. There are capable organizations and individuals can help them get to where they want to be by taking advantage of these things that have been forced on them.
Going back to what you said, you’d like to work in an efficient manner and I do a lot of that myself. I’ve always liked to work remotely. I’m a super-efficient person. I teach a lot of online courses in business courses. You have people who have a hard time working virtually and keeping themselves motivated. I’m sure you’re probably hearing, “How do I know they’re working? How can I track things? You don’t have that same control.” What do you tell people?
The motivation for employees comes down to vision and purpose. One of the things that I always ask employers and business owners to tell me is what is your vision? What’s your mission? What are your core values? If you can’t answer those, it’s almost a foregone conclusion. Your employees won’t know what it is either.Employees are a unique asset. They are something you have that no other competitor can replicate. Click To Tweet
I have many employees who do jobs, tasks, or whatever their responsibilities are and they don’t even know how it ties into the overall goals and mission of the company. How well do you see these leaders sharing the tie-in so that people have that sense of engagement?
For a lot of small business owners, everything is close to the vest. I’ve had clients that have refused to even allow the person that manages their payroll, who enters their payroll into their payroll system to even have access to the reporting because their wages are on there. They want to draw a complete and total crevasse between them and their employees so there is a complete distinction between us and them. That doesn’t create anything other than us and them scenario. That is a culture gap that is virtually impossible to recover from if you’re going to continue that behavior.
You have to be open about what your company does. How does it make money? Why does it make money that way? What does it do with the money? Where does the money go? How has it impacted the overall organization? How does that impact their benefits? How does it finally wind up impacting them as an employee and vice versa? What does your product do for this organization? When you do X and you do it well, what does that impact look like? I think a lot of employers are thinking, “Just do your job and everything will be fine.” People don’t work that way. People want to know that they’re contributing and that they’re making a difference. If you can show them that, then you’ve captured a level of engagement that is hard to capture and puts you over many of your other competitors.
That ties in much to the research I’ve found with curiosity. We have a time when innovation is going to take over a lot of different aspects of work. We might have AI doing certain tasks and different things. If we could get people asking questions and exploring, maybe they would be better aligned in different areas of the company and you then would improve engagement. I remember interviewing Olin Oedekoven on my show and his company. He said he hired people if he saw something great in them and then he designed jobs around them. He does not have a large company. It’s probably more of a mid-size company. Is that a feasible thing for companies to do? It sounds great, but that’s got to be hard because then you’ve got to figure out a way to create these jobs. Is that an expensive thing?
It’s not inexpensive. I think one of the things that have been a mantra for a lot of organizations is to hire the attitude because the aptitude, you can teach.
You are hired of your knowledge and you’re fired for your behavior. It’s the reverse.
When you’re looking for talent and you see talented people, certainly you’ve got a role to fill. Let’s say you’re hiring for an accountant and you see some talent in somebody, but they’re not an accountant. They’re poor accountants. They might have a great attitude, but you need them to be able to do this role. That might not be a great example, but when you find somebody that has a tremendous amount of vision or enthusiasm for your industry, or has a unique way of looking at things that can change your organization around that would be somebody that you want to bring on board. Even though you don’t have a position for them, even though there isn’t anything in your organization that fits all of their skills, it would make sense to find them. Visionaries are hard to come by. Organizations that embrace visionaries are even harder to come by. Especially at the smaller level, a lot of these organizations, the management team runs things close to the vest and they’ve got to be able to open it up a little bit.
How do you teach someone to be a visionary?
I think that there are light bulb moments that somebody can experience and then all of a sudden say, “I get it.” You have to bring them there but there are a couple of things that they have to be willing to do. They have to be willing to be open to the idea that they are not always right.
How do you get over that fear of looking like, “Maybe, I don’t know everything?” Don’t you think a lot of leaders have that imposter syndrome, they’re afraid to be discovered that they don’t know at all?
You’re not human if you don’t. I think everybody operates with some degree of fear. You don’t want to be wrong. You don’t want to look like you didn’t know what you were doing and that you shouldn’t be where you are. That’s normal. I would say, if you are operating in fear, embrace the fear. Fear is good. Fear does some things for you, but I would be more concerned about somebody that wasn’t afraid. Everybody has a level of confidence.
Unethical people just go on and do crazy things. I often teach a lot of courses with Enron stories and different things. You would think, “Where was their fear that this isn’t right?” It stuns me to see some of the things that people do. With Theranos, you really don’t have a product there. I think that we need that sense of our gut is telling us, “This isn’t a good thing,” sometimes. When I work with companies with developing curiosity, I often tell leaders, “You have to model what you’d want your employees to do and if you want them to overcome their fear of asking questions and doing things, then you have to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to this. It may sound stupid and I normally wouldn’t have asked this, but I want you to develop this sense of questioning.’” You then ask something and show your vulnerability. Don’t you think leaders get a little bit more respect if they do that?You have more control over your assets in your employee portfolio than you do in your stock portfolio. Click To Tweet
For sure and when leaders are open, especially when they’re engaging others in the conversation, certainly people are going to look to the leader to make the decisions. When a leader can say to them, “I need to make this decision but I don’t have your unique viewpoint. You’re looking at this from a different angle than I am. I need to know what you think in order for me to make the most educated decision I can.” A good leader is going to look at all of the data opportunities they have to be able to make an educated decision. Engaging individuals in that way gives them that purpose with an understanding that the leader is going to say, “I appreciate the information you were giving me. I’m asking you because I don’t have that information in front of me and I can’t make this decision without your unique viewpoint.”
If you look at it that way as a leader, it lessens your weakness, your fear of weakness in front of your employees but also gives them a sense of purpose, engagement, and value which everybody’s looking for is to be valued. It’s a fine line when you’re a leader, what your team sees you as, and that you want them to respect you. I think if you don’t have that fear, there’s also a lack of accountability and responsibility. Fear can be good because we all need that sense of accountability and responsibility. When you exhibit that, you’re certainly grappling with those concerns. When you are a leader and you are responsible and accountable for these decisions, it’s okay to be fearful of it and say, “I’m afraid of what we’re up against. I want to hear from you what your thoughts are because you are a respected individual within this organization and I value your opinion. If you think that we shouldn’t be afraid because of X, Y, or Z, I want to know that because I need a big picture and you have part of that big picture that I need.”
I think that you bring up some important points and it ties into a lot of the things I talk to people about every day with fear and overcoming some of these issues. I could see a lot of people would probably want to know more about what you do at Human Elements. I want to make sure people can follow you and find out more about what you’re working on. Is there a site or a social media or something that you’d like to share for people to learn more?
Thank you, Sam. This was interesting. I think that many people can get to some help for their small and medium businesses based on much of the work that you’ve done. It was fun to have a chance to chat.
Thank you much for having me on the show. I appreciate it.An entrepreneur looks for opportunities. Click To Tweet
Leading A Business With Remote Work With Mark Dorman
I am here with Mark Dorman, who was appointed SThree CEO in March 2019, joining the business from McGraw Hill Education, where he was President of Higher Education, International, and Professional. Before McGraw Hill, Mark worked at Wolters Kluwer where he was initially Vice President of their Legal Markets Group before becoming CEO. It’s nice to have you here, Mark.
It’s great to be here.
You have an interesting background. I’m always fascinated with education-based backgrounds. It’s hard to think of a bigger name in McGraw Hill. I’d like to get a little bit of background. Where are you from and what got you to this point where you became CEO at SThree?
That’s a long and winding road from Dundee in Scotland, where I come from, in our Corona and the locked-in environment in Connecticut in the US running a company based in London. I’ve spent the last twenty or so years running companies largely in information software and services. McGraw Hill Education, Wolters Kluwer. Prior to that, I was at Gartner and I was at Reed Elsevier. I got into that crazy world. Some of us are of a certain vintage and have a dot-com in us. We can remember Web 1.0 and I am of that vintage. My dot-com that I was an operations officer for was acquired by Reed Elsevier back in 2000. I’ve largely taken companies through some transition. Largely from an analog business into the digital economy and trying to help them get there.
I’m a new guy in the recruitment world, which is an interesting space for SThree. We’re an interesting company. I joined there from McGraw Hill Education. I went there because I’m purpose-driven, which is easy to be when you’re in the education world. What we do at SThree is interesting. Bringing skilled people together to build the future is our purpose. That is what drives the business and that’s what encouraged me to get there. Also, with my background and thinking about how technology can be used for good and help us all. The focus on the business in STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as well as being at the center of flexible working, which has entered the lexicon in our environment quite rapidly. Those two things, the strategy, plus the purpose, make us a unique business as the only global pure-play STEM staffing specialists. It’s great to be here.
That’s an interesting background. I’d love anything that’s education-based. I’ve done a lot of work with different companies. I have taught a lot of online courses and different things in the education field. I think that there’s a lot that gets overlooked. You’re talking about dealing with STEM and that’s such a hot topic. What’s interesting to me is all the focus on how people are learning. Everything’s a certification world. My work is in curiosity and building the questioning and getting away from status-quo thinking and behavioral issues like that. I’m wondering what you think from your background as we get into this, I learned a little bit about this here and a little bit about that there mentality. Are we losing the glue, like the humanities, the soft skills, and the other parts? What do you think from your perspective?
That was always the debate. I remember entering into the world of McGraw Hill Education. Largely the businesses that I run were in higher education and professional education, postgraduate education, and connecting in that world. There was this big debate particularly in higher education about STEM or Science-based courses versus Liberal Arts. For me, that’s a little bit of a false choice because, at the core of what you’re trying to do at education as we think about the environment we’re in now and STEM talent, the biggest learning or the biggest teaching or lesson you can learn is to learn how to learn. To have that curiosity and thinking about creative solutions. There’s a structure that you need to do there to be effective. You can learn that from both Liberal Arts as well as STEM-based or mathematical-based logic and applications. The best of both worlds is where you want to be versus just in one or in the other which to me is a bit of a false choice.
I think that we’re trying to get these well-rounded workplaces where people can do many things because we know that people are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors. Now is a unique time because of COVID in different things. A lot of people are working virtually. They’re having to do different skills, learning how to connect and collaborate in different ways. How’s this going to change when we go back to work? Do you think we’re going to see big changes when we go back to the actual office?
Yes. It’s interesting if we think of the current environment and if you like the shock the system that it’s been. The way I view it is largely being an accelerant of a lot of trends that were underway already. If you think about it, many companies, as we move from the economy that we were in into what the OECD called the Fourth Industrial Revolution or to much more of a knowledge-based economy. Many companies were already trying to think about how do they make the working environment more flexible and try to reach out to your different parts of the community to get a different blend of employees. We’ve accelerated that trend by all of us being forced to work from home at some point in the last twelve months and dispelling many of the myths that parts of work couldn’t happen outside of the office.
We’re finding that that much of it can. If you’re in manufacturing at other places, those things still physically have to happen in a place that’s connected with geography. Many of the other tasks that perhaps people weren’t involved in sadly has been accelerated. I think it’s going to be hard for people to move back completely. I don’t think that’s going to happen. When we speak with our clients, they’re looking at how they enable remote working. It’s here to stay largely because it gives them flexibility and how they think about their workforce. I get to access different parts of the workforce if they are not connected to geography. I get to make the working environment more flexible for those people. I’m not sure after this there are going to be many people if they can signing up to squashing to the subway. There’s also the notion of, how do you create both the infrastructure and their capabilities to make sure that people are supported in that environment?
I saw you lead 3,000 people remotely. How can you help people lead these huge teams? That’s a tough thing and I have a lot of people asking me, how do I keep my people motivated? What kinds of things do people ask you about that?
It was a big shift in terms of the focus of the business. SThree operates in sixteen different countries around the world with 3,000 people. We already have a diverse group of individuals in different cultures and places. Largely, we’d been office-bind. We had a specific way of operating for the many years of the company and then essentially overnight, maybe over the 10, 15-day period, 98% of us were working from home at the start in March, April. People often talk about that there was an investment in technology and infrastructure to support that, but there were two component parts that were most important.Organizations should hire the attitude because the aptitude, you can teach. Click To Tweet
Number one, there was a trust revolution. It’s difficult to be directive to people when they’re dispersed and you’re not physically watching over them at the office. That was important for our leaders and managers in the business to think about how do they manage people? You’re moving from a world where you’re managing the input into activity to managing the output of the work because that’s actually what you can manage in remote. There’s a lot about how do you support people and encourage them versus manage them. That’s a subtle but important distinction. We did a lot of investment in learning and development for everyone, both our employees and our management teams as to how to do that. They have been incredible in terms of their creative ways of using technology and having virtual celebrations. How do we celebrate together? How do we commiserate together? How do we be a team together in a virtual environment? It’s been this huge outpouring of creativity as well as new management and leadership skills that they’ve all been developing.
There’s much that has changed as you’re talking about this having worked in sales in different aspects of my career. I’m thinking about all the ways we were monitored or rated and how we kept track of our time. I know Millennials want it to be more flexible than the Boomers did. Things have changed a lot, but now that they’re working remotely, how are they focusing on their output? Is it more about how much time they’ve worked, how efficiently they work? Is it an end-product? What are we looking at?
When people hear flexibility, they think of chaos. “I get to do whatever I want to do.” The opposite is true which is certainly for the management team and those people that are managing the output. If you’re focused on the work product, the output versus the input and you’re managing there, you’ve got to be much clearer about what expectations are in terms of delivery, of what that output looks like and people need to understand pedometers of what good look like. What are the timelines for the work to be delivered and understand that clearly and succinctly? Then there’s also a lot more structure and a lot more effort and what does good communication look like? I might say a little lazy when we’re in the office but it can be ad hoc.
We can rely on proximity to be able to be confused with communication. When you’re remote there’s going to be a lot more structure and deliberate thought about how you create a good environment. I think that is about good leadership is good leadership. What remote working has done is separate who’s good at doing that good leadership around communication skills and setting expectations. Everyone understanding what their role is and what good looks like. Being much more deliberate around that is becoming incredibly important, but it’s no different than what we should have been doing in the office. We perhaps got a little lazy and we use proximity as an easy way of not doing the things we should have been doing in the first place.
Does it change who we hire now that we’re thinking we’re having more remote workers? Is there some different type of quality? Are we looking for people that are self-motivated more than something else? I’m curious how that goes.
I think there are two components to that. When we speak to our clients because we place a lot of people with specific skills, there’s much more thought and focus on what’s the cultural dynamic, how are people going to fit into this organization and how it works? How it works now and what it means to be a good worker here or a good team member here and is much more structured than it was in the office. Thought about cultural fit and how people are going to be successful and set up for success is important.
The other component that that should be interesting is as you think about remote working and you’re focused and there’s more flexibility, you’re not tied to geographic boundaries or physical boundaries. It allows you to access different types of talent. If you think of differently-abled people and people from different backgrounds. If you’re focused purely on what good work looks like and the output your aspect of who would be good at doing this allows you to go to people that are in different parts of the world. Also, different parts of your local. As well as people from different backgrounds that perhaps you wouldn’t have thought about before. It opens up the talent as well as there is much more focus on who are we and what does success looks like here.
I’ve always in the past loved working remotely, but it’s hard to find remote jobs at a high level. There’s data input and there are different things. You can answer phones, you can do certain things, but if you want it to be an executive director or something at a higher level, is that anything that you can do? Every time you find any of these job openings, they seem to be work-at-home scams.
There’s no question that there will be more opportunities. I don’t think it’s binary in as much as you do that in the office or you’re working remotely. I think where we are right now is it’s going to be much more of a blended world. You’re going to have some time in an office and some time and working remotely that allows more flexibility in terms of hours work or where you are. The focus in that world, if it’s on output and if you’re a leader, how you’re managing your team remotely and their work output as an overall team, that becomes the more defining aspect rather than where you are on the totem pole and where you are in the office. I think there will be more opportunities to do.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the totem pole. Everyone is being forced to be an adult to have the technology and become essentially their own help desk. We’ve all had to become proficient at using technology whether that’s at work. In some cases, even having a family get together, you are required to use platforms to be able to do that and that adopted technology and new ways of working. That’s why it’s been an accelerant because perhaps some of those myths of, “You can’t be at this level or do this work,” when you’re working remotely was largely shorthand for the people in those roles didn’t want to change. That change is being forced upon them. They’re finding that it can happen and that opens up opportunities for many other people.
I’m thinking of the recruitment world. In general, my sister places nurses and all the things that people have to go through, all the paperwork and all the training and all the things they must have. What kind of personality assessment and things like that? Do you require any of that? Should companies have people tested for their emotional intelligence or DiSC or any of those kinds of things? What do you think of that stuff?
Some do and some don’t both formally and informally. There’s certainly this notion of cultural fit. In culture, they are the very hard thing to get your arms around largely because many companies may not be quite as honest as you’d like to be about what the culture is like at the coalface. What that boils down to is an expectation setting. If you’re going to work in a new place, what is it like and does that meet with you to expectations of how you like to work and how you’ll be successful more than what your EQ or what’s your Myers-Briggs profile and managing a jigsaw puzzle with others. It’s about matching expectations.
We spend a lot of time making sure that not only does someone given the roles, replacing the right technical skills that I experience can make an impact. As they move in it’s also about managing expectations about the reality of what it’s like to work at company X, for manager Y, and does that match with what we know about that individual and where they’ve been before and where they’ve been successful? I think there’s this notion that there are a right and wrong answer. It’s not as simple as that. It’s much more around how do you manage people’s expectations about, are they going to be impactful at work? Are they going to be set up for success? Is it an environment where they feel supported and valued? All of those components and similarly on the employer side, does this person show up the way that you would expect people to show up in your organization and work the way that fits with the rest of the organization for them to add value and be successful?
I created an assessment that determines the factors that keep people from being curious. I’ve had people ask me, “Can you use it for recruitment?” I don’t think it’s used for that. It’s not telling you if you have higher or lower levels. To me, the reason I created that was that only things out there were told you if you had higher levels of curiosity, and if you had lower levels, then what? There was no help. How important is curiosity when you’re looking at people as a good fit for companies? How do you determine? Are companies asking about that they want this? I think a lot of leaders think that they embrace curiosity and encourage it but then when you ask the employees, only half of them think that they do.The biggest teaching or lesson you can learn is to learn how to learn. Click To Tweet
I’m not aware of people looking for curiosity specifically, but what they are looking for is people to help them and creatively solve problems, which maybe is the outcome of curiosity. There’s a focus on that and the more senior you are in terms of being placed, the more expectation is the value you bring is more around that creative problem-solving. That’s becoming a more and more important component, certainly of the people that we place and of how people that are expected to show up. I’m not sure people articulate it as a curiosity aspect, but creative problem solving is exactly all about curiosity, adapting, learning and experimentation. I think where sometimes companies get bogged down is when you hire those people with those aspects, they sometimes come up with solutions that you’re probably not ready for yet.
Then what do you do? Those great ideas get shelved. It’s the worry of having the Blockbuster-Netflix thing where they get an idea presented to them that they overlook because they go with status quo thinking. It’s a fascinating look at things that we need in company culture to tie into engagement, productivity, and innovation. My interest was not on curiosity, it’s getting away from the status quo. The way things have always been done because we’ve always done it this way. We are not going to look at different things and I think it must interesting to work with many different industries. What’s the most interesting part of working in this new position for you? Is it that you get to see many different jobs and things that you didn’t see if you’re in one industry?
Like most roles, the most interesting thing is people and the other part of joining the company, and being in a purpose-led organization is we’ve got 3,000 passionate individuals that are doing important things that are supplying the single most valuable asset any company can have, which is the people. Hearing the stories, engaging with clients and candidates, and seeing the work that they’re doing is incredible and awe-inspiring. Particularly now in terms of some of the problems that people are working on. For example, our business in the US in life sciences has helped place people in manufacturing to try and ramp up the acceleration of ventilator production, for example.
In the UK, we placed close to 300 contractors that were helping to do the scheduling and services for the NHS as we were setting up the temporary hospitals. There are a lot of incredible stories. Also, we’ve got incredible people that are focused on renewables and building what the new economy is going to look like right down to which might seem mundane but important. People making sure that the network infrastructure and cable providers are kept up to speed and their bandwidth is managed. When I think about our purpose at SThree of bringing those skill people together to build a future, they are. People in life sciences, people in technology engineering, all levels, are trying to solve some of those big problems. The inspiring thing is the candidates that we have, we call them our heroes, is going out and trying to solve some of those big problems.
I know that you guys get a lot of awards for having diversity inclusion with women. All the words on your site were impressive, the best companies to work for in New York. I’m looking at gender equality at work. I think that you’ve got an interesting company in what you’re doing now. All the topics that you focus on are the key things that leaders need to be thinking about because everybody’s working differently. A lot of people probably want to know more about how they can find you and connect with you. Do you have any links or social media stuff you’d like to share?
You can go to our website www.SThree.com. We’ve got #STEMCity. You can follow that on either LinkedIn or Twitter. We’ve done a series of webinars on a lot of these actual topics. If anyone’s interested, they can follow me on LinkedIn at Mark Dorman. SThree has LinkedIn as well, which is LinkedIn.com/company/sthree-plc. Those are all the places that you can find me in the company and the great work that the team does.
That’s great that you were able to join me, Mark. This was fascinating. I’m glad to share all this stuff. People are trying to work remotely and they need all this advice. Thank you for being on the show.
Thank you for having me, Diane. It was great to be here.
I’d like to thank both Sam and Mark for being my guests. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. You can find the shows there, everything about curiosity and perception. All the work is there. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Human Elements Consulting
- Sam Tanios
- HBR article – The Business Case for Curiosity
- Francesca Gino – Previous episode
- Olin Oedekoven – Previous episode
- Samuel I. Tanios – LinkedIn
- Mark Dorman – LinkedIn
About Samuel Tanios
Samuel I. Tanios is the Founder at Human Elements Consulting, an entrepreneur who serves entrepreneurs.
About Mark Dorman
Mark Dorman was appointed SThree CEO in March 2019, joining the business from McGraw Hill Education, where he was President of Higher Education, International and Professional. Prior to McGraw Hill, Mark worked at Wolters Kluwer where he was initially Vice President of their Legal Markets Group before becoming CEO of Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!