Win the Talent War: Jeanne Meister of Future Workplace
Jeanne Meister is a founding partner of Future Workplace and a recognized expert on how to create a positive employee experience. Her company is an HR advisory and research firm, specializing in discussing and sharing new practices in the future workplace. Meister brings to the table more than 25 years of experience in the HR consulting field. She is also the author of 4 books, including her newest, The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:00] Introduction to Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace.
[01:22] Customer service satisfaction and employee satisfaction have a lot in common.
[04:13] A human-centered approach to the employee experience.
[07:20] Real estate and employee satisfaction.
[08:22] HR and the creative use of hackathons.
[12:13] The best ways for companies to attract, develop, and retain top talent.
[15:48] MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to grow and develop skills.
[19:45] Meister’s new book, The Future Workplace Experience.
[22:33] Advice to Meister’s college-aged self.
Introduction and Background
With over 25 years of experience in the field of HR consulting, Jeanne Meister knows her stuff. She is a founding partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory and research firm committed to helping companies navigate the future workplace and workforce. Meister writes a regular column for Forbes and is the author of 4 books, the latest of which is The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees.
The Inspiration for Future Workplace
Meister’s first corporate job was with Maxwell House. She learned the importance of always starting with the customer, and when she graduated into HR, she brought that mindset along with her. She had the opportunity to interview Mark Levy for her Forbes column, who was head of HR at Airbnb. Fascinated with his innovative style, Meister says, “He reconfigured his position to be the Chief Employee Experience Officer.” The goal was for HR to expand and partner with real estate, marketing, and head of technology to create the best employee experience possible. The idea of this integration was “to create a holistic experience so that the employee experience mirrors the very best customer experience that an organization creates,” says Meister. In this vein, we see other new job titles appearing to replace the old HR model, such as Employee Experience Officer or Chief of People and Culture. These are all improvements that Meister refers to as the human-centered approach to the employee experience. In her world, customer service satisfaction and employee satisfaction have a great deal in common.
Even Smaller Companies Can Create Change Within
When talking about her newest book, Meister often gets questions about how smaller companies, rather than major corporations, can create change. She gives a few manageable suggestions they can start with.
- A shift in mindset that tries to see things from the employees’ eyes and ears.
- Listen to what your current, past, and future workforce is saying. Funnel this feedback to HR so they can implement improvements and enhancements.
- Departments should come together to figure out how they can enhance the employee experience. “Employee experience is not an initiative for HR,” says Meister. “It’s a business initiative.”
Employee Satisfaction and Real Estate
In a recent speech, Meister was talking about a new alliance between HR and real estate. She had some chief human resource officers in the room. One said he felt a little guilty when he got his last job. He had a huge office with a door, a great desk, and a comfy couch, while the rest of the employees were just kind of jammed in the middle of the floor. It was uncomfortable for everyone, even for him. “What’s the statement we’re making to our employees,” asks Meister, “if our executives have very plush offices with coaches, and employees have 300 square feet?” That is why looking at everything from the eyes of employees is such an important matter.
The Hackathon Is Here
Hackathons are not news to IT firms or departments. It’s often coders working all night long to solve a business problem. What is new is that HR departments are beginning to use hackathons.
“Traditionally, if HR wanted to create a new solution, they’d take a bunch of senior HR leaders on a retreat for a day or two,” explains Meister. “But now there’s a movement within HR to give everyone a voice.” Some companies close HR for a day and use technology and brainstorming sessions to throw around ideas for reimagining employee recruitment, onboarding, training, and development, among other things. Meister sees this as an exciting new initiative to break out of old patterns that no longer serve employers and employees very well.
“Surprisingly, during these hackathons, when people did … look at many of the HR processes with a new set of eyes, what they came up with were a lot of apps that could do the job better than the current process,” says Meister.
You can read Meister’s Forbes hackathon articles here:
Attracting, Developing, and Retaining Top Talent
As the war for talent heats up, some rules for attracting and keeping your best talent have changed with the times. Meister says when recruiting your talent, it is important to offer them the best tools and technology. No one wants to work for a company that has an aging technology and lacks resource tools. A sense of community is also important. Give them a reason to want to join the team, opportunity to grow within the company, and a purpose to stick around for the long haul.
Some companies are beginning to realize that we live and work in a multi-generational world. “Even though there’s a lot of focus on millennials, 61% of the workforce will be Millennial or Gen Z by 2025. That leaves 25 or 30% who are over 55 years old,” explains Meister. She advises that companies are beginning to create employee affinity groups, not just to talk about generational issues, but as R&D groups. The idea is to get a point of view on product development while taking into account diverse ages and ethnicities.
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are a wonderful way to grow and develop skills. You can find a directory at MOOCs. The employee goes online to put a profile together. They fill in their skills, competence level, knowledge, job title, and what they want to learn. MOOCS are either free or low cost, and some provide a certificate for a completed course. Most employers will reimburse employees the cost. The power for growing and developing skills is now in the hands of the employee, and ongoing learning greatly enhances their employability.
Meister adds, “There was an article by the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, which was really a call to action. He expected AT&T employees to learn on their own time, 5 to 10 hours a week because the pace and rate of change was so fast. And AT&T was not just competing with the companies in their sector, but with the Googles and the Facebooks, and the Apples.” According to Meister, AT&T did two important things. First, they offered a generous educational reimbursement, and secondly, they helped connect employees with relevant MOOCs and podcasts, like Win the Talent War.
AT&T is a big corporation, but their plan can be duplicated by smaller companies as well. Everyone has access to MOOCs. What employer wouldn’t love access for their employees to high-quality education on demand for little or no cost?
Meister’s New Book
“The new book is based on research with 2,100 heads of HR and hiring managers to look at how companies are preparing for and navigating the future of work. We summarized the entire findings of that research into what we call Ten Rules for Mastering Disruption.”
Meister tells us that another big takeaway from the book is examining how technology impacts workers. They also explore the changing face of the workforce, not just culturally and generationally, but also the new category of gig economy workers, contract workers, and contingent workers who are working alongside full-timers. “This is really going to have an impact on the whole talent management process,” explains Meister.
“If you want to see some of the media that we’ve been getting, go to our website,” says Meister. Just last week she was notified that they won the Silver Award from Axiom Business Books as the best business book in the HR category for 2016.
Advice to Her College-Aged Self
“The biggest thing I would tell myself is be open to lots of new opportunities. Always learn, and push yourself into new networks, and reading new material online.” Meister rejects the idea that you have to know what you want to do with your future and have a 5-year plan just out of college. She feels it is more important to be open to what your interests are, and always be learning something new. “Your opportunities will come from someone you know today, or someone you’re going to meet tomorrow,” says Meister, “and it goes without saying that you are going to be successful if you do something you love, and it’s purposeful for you.”