Every month, we sit down with transformational HR leaders to discuss hot topics in rewards and recognition, employee engagement, HR, and leadership.
Meet Louis & Scott
Louis Carter is the founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute and all Louis Carter branded classes, facilitated sessions, culture change programs and CEO coaching engagements including his company Most Loved Workplace and Results Based Culture. An organizational psychologist and top advisor to C-level executives of Fortune 1000 companies, he is the author of 11 books on leadership and management including his recent In Great Company (McGraw Hill).
Scott Baxt is the COO of Best Practice Institute. He leads all operational and logistical elements of BPI and Louis Carter programs and practices, and brings over 18 years of experience developing and executing results-producing and research-driven marketing and operational strategies for the talent management profession.
A few of our favorite takeaways:
Let’s jump into the interview.
A significant part of your history is research and studies surrounding organizational psychology. What is organizational psychology and how does it fit into building and retaining high performing teams?
Essentially, organizational psychology is the study of functional and dysfunctional organization systems. ‘Organizational’ is about how we come together. Do we come together in a functional or dysfunctional manner? We all know the dysfunctional manner; it’s pretty easy to spot. But we can also see and sense and intuit the functional manner.
Any organizational psychologist wears multiple ‘hats’. I personally gravitate towards the ‘researcher’ and ‘change agent’ hats, which begin with a deep understanding of the history of organizational psychology and organizational development, and then ask questions to gather data about reality and make it happen in a courageous manner.
Often the questions are metaphysical: What are we thinking about? How are we thinking about what we’re thinking about? When we research, we ask people, “How are you thinking about what you’re thinking about? Do you think about what you think about? Do you think about how you feel about it?”
At Best Practice Institute, we often reference a formula that clarifies some of the key areas org psych aims to deal with:
DxVxF>R. Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance.
Unraveling those terms, the formula is simple. As individuals and as teams, if we know what our overarching vision is, if we experience satisfaction in our role, and if we are clear on our first steps, we will overcome internal or external resistance to taking action. However, if any one of these elements are not in play we will experience significant resistance.
An interesting challenge we face is how to blend psychology with the technology that is available in 2020. You’re crafting a tool to help organizations do just that. Tell us about “Most Loved Workplace”…
Sure. I love the powerful combination of human elements with more quantitative elements. In our study for Most Loved Workplace we asked a simple question: What makes you love your workplace? Then we asked: What would you do as a result if you loved your workplace? Then: What would you do if you hated it?
Some answers were pretty obvious, but there were also surprising data. We did find that things like rewards and recognition and competitive salaries and bonuses came up as important factors in why employees loved their workplaces.
But when we dug deeper into the human elements, when they defined what “love” means in the workplace, respondents were referring to the elements around how we collaborate, how we feel psychologically safe within an environment, and what are the things that we feel we must do vs. the things that we don’t need to do.
Do we, as a team, have a clear vision for the future? Are my individual values aligned with those I’m working with? Am I respected in the way I expect to be respected? Is there currency and reciprocity in respect? Am I able to get my work done and achieve outcomes?
For the Most Loved Workplace, we begin with a survey to gather data and help companies begin to evaluate their organizational strengths and gaps. Alternatively, we might begin with a more qualitative approach at the CEO level.
I tell every CEO the same thing: it begins and ends with you, whether you like it or not. To everyone directly below the CEO, I tell them the same thing. The CEO is in charge here: whether you like it or not, make peace with it.
When we begin with the CEO, we work with that person to define their vision for the future. Afterwards we get input from the whole team. What does that CEO do well? What could they do better? What is one thing they could stop, start, or do more or less of? We curate the feedback and report back to the CEO before creating a game plan on how to move forward.
What are the recommendations you make after collecting this data and feedback? How do you see your clients taking the results and making real changes?
No matter where we start, the real changes made or not made always go back to the CEO. If the CEO gets involved and wants to work it, it will work. A lot of bottom up change comes and goes. It’s programmatic, and there is a difference between programmatic change and transformational change. Programmatic change is transactional and happens in a moment of time. A lot of consultants come in and do momentary programs and workshops. They don’t work. Ultimately, the people at the top need to undergo their own transformation in order to transform the system. It takes work with the CEO, the Executive Team, and the Board, because that is where the behaviors manifest that most influence the organization as a whole.
If you can work at that level and identify the gaps at that level and work toward closing them in a customized, personal level you have a much better chance of success. What do these changes mean to you? How do they manifest in your system?
Treat each CEO’s case in a human way. A nuanced way. Take the temperature, the weather, the ground conditions. There are so many factors that go into what drives human behavior and if we don’t know them in who we work with, we’re navigating blindly.
The tool builds upon the construct that Lou writes about in In Great Company and includes the research-based causes for when and why people feel emotional connectedness to their workplaces and love for their organizations. The tool asks questions around key aspects that make an organization a Most Loved Workplace: positive future, alignment to company values, and so on.
We ask proprietary questions in a way where employees can give unbiased opinions and extrapolate that feedback into whether or not they love or feel connected to their workplace. We get to the crux of it. The tool builds upon this and takes in feedback from the employees’ and managers’ perspectives to align those two viewpoints. This allows a CEO to understand whether there is a gap in alignment and if so, identify the void and improve upon those areas.
Statistically we work with scoring in 5 areas, which we translate into a GPA for ease of understanding. From there, we run splits and pivots to compare demographic data in any number of ways that are useful to our clients.
Finally, we’ve adapted the Net Promoter philosophy (where 9 and 10 are your ‘net promoters’, 6 and below are your ‘detractors’, and 7 and 8 are ‘neutral). One of our core questions is, “Would you recommend your company to friends and colleagues?” This takes away a lot of the bias when we run analysis on the answers.
On the psychological side, we ran construct validity studies. Meaning we took other peer-reviewed studies and compared them to our own findings. What we got is something called Cronbach’s alpha, which is a test score reliability coefficient. It validates the degree to which our study was relevant to other studies that we were building upon. For us, those other studies are “Affective Commitment” by O’Neill (1991), “Organization Citizenship Behaviors”, “Psychological Safety” from Amy Edmonson out of Harvard, and various peer-reviewed studies on the “Big Five personality traits”.
We know there are three parts to organizational commitment: affective, normative, and continuance commitment. Affective commitment is, simply put, when you feel love for your workplace. You want to be there!
Continuance commitment and normative commitment are more psychopathic, or put lightly, more ritualistic. “If I leave the company, something bad will happen.” Or, “if I leave this employer, I’ll never work in this town again!” Of course, we want to cultivate affective commitment in our teams and organizations.
In the Big Five study, we saw high indirect correlations between neuroticism and people who are affective inside of a culture. Meaning, people who are high in neuroticism were less likely to exhibit behaviors of emotional regulation and empathy, and less likely to be affective in their respective culture.
The purpose of Wishlist software has its own roots in psychology, specifically, the element of ‘love and belonging’ from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The concept of love has been a term that traditionally hasn’t been used in the workplace, but you’re also using its concept with Most Loved Workplace. Does love belong in the workplace in 2020 even though it has been taboo in the past? If yes, then in what capacity?
When we started this process, the word love stood for the emotional component. We related to our own past experiences at work, but we could take it into personal relationships as well. For instance, whether it’s a job or with a special person, we all start new relationships with some level of love. That’s typically why we’re opting in to the relationship to begin with.
Over time, things start to change. In some cases, your voice stops being heard. In other cases, you learn that if you disagree with the other party in the relationship, you might not be well received. The relationship starts to be a commitment rather than a desire. In the workplace, as well as at home, your desire to give discretionary effort and extra help might also drop drastically. At Best Practice Institute, we look at those elements of love, commitment, and desire to give effort — or lack thereof — that influence how people perform in teams and in organizations.
At Wishlist, we love Zig Ziglar’s quote,“You don’t build a business. You build people, and people build the business.” Knowing that 2020 has been a challenging year for many organizations, what should HR professionals focus on right now to attract and retain talent?
What strikes me is the alignment of values. We know this from a practical standpoint. An organization will state what their values are and what they believe in. Sometimes they’ll even chisel it into a wall or put up values-emblazoned posters. But that doesn’t matter. Ultimately, it comes down to how you live out your organizational values, and that is something you can’t fake. In times like this, the value of living out your values is elevated even more.
See, at the beginning of a crisis, companies will say the right things: we’re here for you, we feel for you, we know what you’re going through. As an employee or a candidate in the hiring process, you may have conditional trust at the beginning, but as that starts to wear off, organizations have to walk their talk. That is where lasting trust is actually built. For those who are having retention or attraction issues, look at your values-to-action alignment.
With virtual workers, organizations now have access to a talent pool beyond their immediate geographic area. This gives them additional candidates, but it also makes acquisition of top talent that much more competitive. There is a level of investment that has come into play, where virtual employees and far-flung employers have to be even more accountable to each other in delivering whatever they have promised or committed to each other.
Bottom line: if you already state your organizational values clearly and often, take time to evaluate whether you and your teams actually live them. If you and your teams are indeed living your values, take steps to show others outside your organization how they are being lived. If you do this, you won’t just keep your talent: your talent will go out of their way to promote your workplace to others.
Want to dive deeper into some of the key studies and publications from Best Practice Institute? We recommend: The Emotionally Connected Leader, Creating a Most Loved Workplace, and Prominent Qualities of Employees Loving Their Workplace.
As a company, Wishlist is passionate about people and technology and what we can achieve by blending those two elements. Know someone who may be interested in a rewards and recognition solution? Refer an organization today and receive a $100 Wishlist reward if the organization signs up!