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Episode 3: Ryan Tahmassebi

By May 22, 2020 No Comments

Coding On Space Mountain
Remote Control Episode 3

With Ryan Tahmassebi

This conversation with Ryan delves into what companies can do to foster a positive employee experience for remote workers.

In this episode we discuss:

💡 Why trust is essential for happy remote employees

💡 Can technology replace face to face communication?

💡 The importance of peer-to-peer recognition

Remote Control - Ryan Tahmassebi

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Episode Transcript

Ryan:

My biggest fear is that the more we rely on communication to support remote working, the more we’ll lose sight of the fact that, again, I keep coming back to it, that we are social beings that need that face-to-face interaction like humans crave it, the human brain craves it. That’s never going to change.

Speaker 2:

That was Ryan Tahmassebi from Hive HR. And this is Remote Control.

Jack:

Thanks for joining us today. With me, is Ryan, the director of People Science, at Hive. It’s an employee feedback platform and a strategic partner to, well, some of the most well-known companies in the UK. Thanks for joining me, Ryan.

Ryan:

No problem, Jack. Thanks for having me.

Jack:

I was just taking a look at some of the companies that you’ve kind of worked alongside in the past… There’s some like huge names, are Amazon, the NHS, Nestle. Must be some kind of… Well, I imagine some very differences in employee experience engagement between say like Amazon and the NHS? Is that something that you would say-

Ryan:

Oh, it’s definitely some differences, but there’s probably more similarities as well-

Jack:

… Oh, really?

Ryan:

… that you wouldn’t perhaps… Kind of it wouldn’t spring to mind straight away. I mean, I guess one of the biggest differences is kind of walking into that almost a city within a city, the Amazon campus in Seattle is very, very different experience to walking into an NHS Trust or walking through the wards of an NHS hospital. But, seeing the high rises and the different kind of nightclubs and the coffee shops and the restaurants and gyms that all surround such a huge site where they’re based out there, you can kind of see that almost it’s not necessarily an employee experience working there, but it’s like a life experience. Because you’re almost kind of encapsulated within one area, which has everything you need, rather than it necessarily just being a traditional place of work.

And I guess that’s where kind of, the word campus comes from with these kind of places like Amazon and Google in that you can literally spend all of your-

Jack:

Your whole life.

Ryan:

… Not just the traditional 9:00 to 5:00. So I guess this idea of a shift is one of the big differences there and what that looks like. And obviously the physical environment, the space and how modern the workspace is there.

I guess some of the similarities, which struck me quite quickly, when you have those conversations with people about, how would you kind of capture what it feels like to work here? Or, how would you describe the culture here? They’re very quickly talking about… I think the phrase the first person used was kind of hamster on the wheel because there’s just always more work to do.

Jack:

There’s always stuff to do, yeah.

Ryan:

There’s just always stuff to do. And it’s always so fast paced. It’s relentless. If you speak to someone who works in the NHS at the moment, they’re probably going to say something very similar. They might use a different phrase-

Jack:

Yeah, I feel like-

Ryan:

… But what they’re going to try and get across to you is the idea that they have so much work to do. And they’re never really eating into that list of things to do. It’s just constantly piling on them and piling on them.

Jack:

There’s never a done.

Ryan:

There’s never a done. There’s never done. And Amazon, one of the conversations we were having there is how can you really almost stop and take the time to think about the employee experience and the culture that you’re trying to create and almost try and kind of turn the ship and start moving it in a different direction? So how can you actually change the culture for an organisation like that, given how fast paced it is and given the nature of the environment in which they’re operating? It’s very, very difficult.

Jack:

Yeah, I guess there’s all sorts of things that are kind of influencing that from the outside influences to Amazon, from maybe politics to consumer behaviour and then what the buyers are now looking at is going to impact a company of that size massively.

Ryan:

Absolutely. And fundamentally, they’re a very high performing business, right? So, if they were really struggling, you would maybe think, right, okay, there’s some real kind of cultural challenges here, which they need to address. And absolutely, there are improvements that they can make, but I guess that’s what really strikes you with an organisation like that. Everything, they’re very data driven. They’re always looking for that marginal gain. They’re always looking for that ability to improve what they’re doing and how they do things even by 0.5% to 1%, but they’re always measuring it. They’re always getting data to understand a way those improvements can be made.

And I guess, obviously credit to them, that they recognise that the people experience, the culture, is something which they want to look at and they want to make sure that they get even better at delivering a great experience for people so that yes, they’re high performing, but it’s kind of sustainable high performance in a sense that the people who work there don’t burn out and they actually enjoy the time that they work there.

Jack:

Thinking to this podcast, Remote Control, so what kind of caused me to want to speak to people like yourself and kind of other people in the internal comms and engage employee field, there’s a stat that gets bandied around quite a lot. And it’s from Office for National Statistics. It kind of talks about 50% of the workforce working remotely in 2020. And I think when I first heard that, I thought that’s way too many. But then I think about the stream go where I work and we’ve all got the option. I’ll be getting the train back this afternoon, won’t be going into the office. So yeah, there’s different ways that can work. Fundamentally to this podcast, I guess, the hard hitting question is, do you also work remotely?

Ryan:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I would say rather than working remotely, I would say I work really flexibly. So I look at how to make my work and my personal life work around each other and fit perfectly together. So there’s that kind of harmony between the two. And the answer for that, to me, is to work really flexibly. Yes, sometimes work remotely.

I mean, an example of that is two days a week, every week I pick my kids up from school, drop them off in the morning. So that obviously takes that… That kind of shortens the typical working day for me.

Jack:

Yeah.

Ryan:

So sometimes I will just work from home those days to avoid the additional loss time of driving in or making my way into the city centre. Or other times I’ll kind of catch up and do some work when they go down to bed at eight o’clock at night. I tend to work best, particularly kind of sitting down and doing desk work, I tend to do that best when it’s later in the evening, than first thing in the morning. So, it’s making sure that the work that I do, is all about what I need to deliver for the business rather than the number of hours that I need to do. And this is an age old kind of compensation about, it’s not the hours you work or when you work. It’s that it should be about the quality of the output.

And, I guess, what we focus on here is making sure that everyone has the trust to deliver, but also that kind of clarity around what it is that we need them to deliver. So people will have that kind of clarity of objectives. They’ve got that understanding of what value they’re adding to the business, but they also have that freedom, creative freedom to make it work around all of the other commitments and all of the other things, which are really important to people. For me, that is my family and my partner and making sure… For example, we’ve just moved into a new house and the amount of time I’ve had to be at home to be there for contractors, subcontractors, to come do remedial work, or just do deliveries. And-

Jack:

And they’re always on time as well.

Ryan:

… Yeah, well, exactly. So I’ve worked from home a lot in the last month and far more frequently than previous months. Now, compare that to my partner’s employer, and it’s certainly not a criticism of that employer. It’s the nature of her job. She needs to be there. She needs to be there more typical, like 9:00 to 5:00 type working hours. So, if I didn’t have the opportunity to work remotely, it’d be really, really difficult because then if you’re not able to be around between 9:00 to 5:00, how do you get those subcontractors to come out? Because that’s the hours that they work.

So just that idea of just being able to have flexibility and understand that everyone that… And we’ve got 37 people working here now, that some of them have got children, some of them don’t. Some of them have got different friends and social groups that all have different working patterns. And to be able to say to them, “Look, we want to make it work. However you want.” We’ve just had a developer working out in Florida-

Jack:

Nice.

Ryan:

… Just kind of half a holiday, but half doing some work out there. So he was working out there. We’ve got one of our other developers over in Thailand with his new-born baby at the moment and his wife. And he’s working from out there. So, we can see that statistic that you mentioned. We’re embracing it and thinking to ourselves, well, look, we’re a business in Newcastle city centre. And this is where we see our future. We’re not going to move and relocate. This is where our HQ is.

But from a talent-pool perspective, we need to really open ourselves up, particularly for the developers and think, how can we make it so that we can actually attract really talented developers from all over the world? Because if we’ve got developers who we’ve recruited here, but they’re able to work really well for us from all the different corners of the world, why shouldn’t we start recruiting from those corners of the world as well to begin with?

Jack:

Or limit someone’s kind of desire to do that travel and mix that with their work, I guess?

Ryan:

Absolutely. Again, you look at the demographic, the nature of the people we have here, we have someone who wants to go and travel in New Zealand for a few months and still continue to do a few days a week. So we’re going to support him to do that. What a great experience that will be for him. For me, the challenge with remote working comes from the sense of isolation and really feeling a part of it. And why I mention that is because the three individuals I’ve mentioned, and including myself, by the way actually, as well in this, we’ve started working for Hive and working here, working in the HQ, being around everyone, feeling that buzz, being around the CEO who injects a great energy. And that energy, that feeds right through the business.

It’s very different if you recruit someone who starts the journey working remotely to make sure they feel as part of it. So it’s almost like this idea of, well, look, we created… Having people become part of Hive family, to use a cliché, and then they move on to start working more remotely, but what we haven’t necessarily done yet is recruit someone, who from the beginning, is based in a completely different location.

Jack:

Yeah. Yeah, and I guess, like you say, that comes, I guess, off the back of an opportunity, but brings with it, the challenges of being engaged. Like you say, the buzz of working alongside other people is something that some people value, and maybe isn’t as important to others. And yeah, I guess that’s kind of a whole new different experience for yourselves at Hive and lots of people now that are embracing the flexible work. You mentioned flexible, it’s something I do as well. And it’s great, but yeah, there’s sometimes when it would be good to kind of get my head out my laptop and see that there’s someone kind of just on the next desk and find out what they’re doing. And sometimes the instant messaging is great for communication, but it does put up an invisible wall to that usual kind of chitchat that you do have in the office.

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. I remember in a previous role, working in Manchester and then after four years or so relocating back to Newcastle and working on a remote basis. And I think it’s fair to say, in terms of level of engagement, of feeling part of it, it just changed. My experience of working for that organisation completely changed, through no fault of theirs. Just, it’s different. You’re not in it. You’re not around people. It became about that one day, every two weeks where I would go down to the office in Manchester and almost kind of going down to talk through what I’d been working on over the previous two weeks. And, other than the odd kind of check in, and the odd email, you basically are kind of isolated out on your own with work to do, but no way of kind of really showing what it is you’re working on. Or that sense of having someone there to bounce the ideas off with, getting that bit of support.

You find yourself just sitting there working all day. Whereas, obviously you’re in an office like this, a few of you will get up and nip out and go and have a coffee or a bit of lunch at lunch time. And all of a sudden I felt very, very, very isolated and started to find it a real challenge. And that then impacts on your wellbeing and things like that. So, you know, from speaking to me, I’m clearly an extrovert as well. So then you throw that into the mix, are extroverts as suited to working remotely as introverts? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can imagine an introvert would probably find it easier to sit away on their own with some kind of workstreams that they’re focused on, kind of plugging away at it-

Jack:

Yeah, able to bury themselves-

Ryan:

… they might find it a little bit more difficult. But you touch on things like instant messaging and stuff like that, and obviously, here we are with technology providing such a great opportunity for remote working and such a great opportunity for that kind of… Because this is all about communication, right?

Jack:

Yeah.

Ryan:

So if you’re a remote worker, you want that communication. You want to feel a part of it. You want to feel connected to what’s happening in the business. You want to feel like you’ve got a line in to get that support. But the challenge is with the communication is nothing is better than face-to-face communication. Like we’re social beings. We need that. And the quality of conversations that you have face to face, I think are always better than ones that you’ll have over a chat line or even over the phone as well.

So, I think the challenge with technology is that… We use Slack here, which is great and we love Slack, but it’s very easy for everything, to all of a sudden, just go through Slack.

Jack:

Yes.

Ryan:

And so again, I think… And you’ll hear a lot more from people who are experts in comms around what to use the likes of Slack for and what to keep off Slack. But I think for me, I just kind of go off this very basic principle of make sure you get as much face-to-face time in as possible.

Jack:

Okay, so that’s like a conscious decision that-

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. So, if I take my team here, for example, there’s five of us now in the People Science Team. At any given time, we have two who are more likely to be based in the office more regularly than the others. But at any given time, all five of us could be in different locations. So it’s really important to think about and plan ahead and look at when can I get the one-to-one time with them on a regular basis? When can we get time together as a team? When can we all jump on something like Google Hangout or Zoom or whatever to do a face-to-face video call, just making sure that those people in the team never feel that sense of isolation. They’ve always got that kind of constant communication and it’s just creating that feeling as well that you’re always there. They might not be able to see you, but they know they can pick up the phone because-

Jack:

It’s easy to get that kind of bit of feedback or direction.

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. So, we obviously continue to have that as a conversation here of how do we use communication in the right way? Because we’ve got sales guys who’re out on the road. We’ve got customer success guys who’re out on the road. My team are out on the road. It tends to be the developers, the engineering team that are the only ones that are here, the majority of the time. But then as I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, they’re traveling more and they’re working more remotely as well. So we’re constantly learning and looking at ways to make sure everyone feels a part of it.

Jack:

I can’t stop imagining the development. You mentioned coding whilst in Disney World. That’s where I presume they were in Florida. I imagine they’re coding maybe in the Islands of Adventure or-

Ryan:

Space Mountain queue! I think those days where he went into Disney World were the ones where he was spending time with his partner out there and he was making the most of his holiday. I certainly hope so. But he was certainly… Well, we’re certainly still small enough to be in scale-up mode. And we’re all kind of hands-on deck at times and it creates such a buzz. But also, we have this kind of unwavering passion right across the business that we all want to help to move things forward and get things done.

And, I think, that particular developer saw an opportunity to still get a few things done in and around some important holiday time that he had in as well. But obviously, it’s great for him to be able to use Slack and send us some updates on how his holiday’s going-

Jack:

Oh, yeah, I’m sure lots of photos.

Ryan:

… Yeah, exactly. But also be able to kind of connect him with his team as well and still be a part of their kind of sprints and their huddles and things like that to make sure that the team are all together.

So it’s definitely something we’re seeing more here. It’s something we’re seeing more with our customers that more and more people are working remotely. And I think you’re obviously touching on a really important subject because it is something that we get asked a lot. How do we get people to want to take part in engagement surveys when they’re working remotely? Because what we see from our own data is that response rates from remote workers tends to be slightly lower than from those who are based in the office. As are the employee net promoter scores as well. So something we use as kind of like an engagement metric and engagement tracker for many of our customers seems to be slightly lower for remote workers. So you’re basically highlighting that remote workers typically less engaged than non-remote workers, but we’re going to be getting more and more remote workers.

Jack:

Yeah.

Ryan:

Here’s something we need to solve. Here’s a challenge we need to address.

Jack:

Yeah. You’re dead right. It’s exactly kind of where it came from, is kind of identifying that almost as all the employees, thinking of myself as a consumer of working somewhere, that shift is changing. In the B2C world, the business has changed to what the consumer is doing. And it’s kind of understanding from your insights, really exciting way can be great, to be honest, you’re working with companies that will see their employees, massive companies that they’ll see their employees shifting towards either wanting to work remotely or flexibly. And you undoubtedly get insight into kind of what those employees are feeding back to their companies and how those companies are adapting to those demands.

So that was kind of yeah, the kernel of the idea for the podcast. And definitely why would I want to speak to you is to understand what type of trends and challenges your clients are seeing really.

Ryan:

I think if you look at, not necessarily just at Hive’s customers, but if you look at something like a Glassdoor list of best companies to work for, if you look at these lists of companies that are offering the best employee experience to their people, you’ll see the likes of Airbnb up there. So, really, really famous company doing great things.

The interesting thing with something like Airbnb is when you look into it, is that they… So they started out with… And I am no expert on that particular organisation. This is from my own research and interest in this topic. The Airbnb, when they first set out, they had this idea that their people could work from anywhere. So as long as they had the equipment, they had some goals and objectives and a MacBook or whatever, to be able to get on with their job, then it wouldn’t matter whether they were working from a coffee shop in Union Square in San Francisco, whether they were working from the beach in San Diego, wherever.

Jack:

Yup.

Ryan:

But then what they found was that there was this sense of community that was missing because people didn’t have that one location to go to where they would be with other Airbnbers or whatever they call their people. So it’s this idea of, my biggest fear is that the more we rely on communication to support remote working, the more we’ll lose sight of the fact that… Again, I keep coming back to it, that we are social beings that need that face-to-face interaction. Like humans crave it, the human brain craves it. That’s never going to change.

So, we need to figure out ways to support remote working but without risking or removing that face-to-face conversation. Because when we’re all so busy and we come back to that at the beginning about this idea of hamster on the wheel, right, how easy is it to just… Then you can just ping a message to someone on a WhatsApp or a Slack or any kind of messenger tool, or even just pinging an email. That’s going to feel so much easier to get catching up with John off your to-do list, than picking up the phone and having a conversation with him.

Jack:

Yeah, yeah.

Ryan:

Or it’s going to feel a lot easier to just ping everyone a Google Hangout link, then arranging a get together. But we can’t undervalue the importance of the latter. We need to make sure we don’t lose that-

Jack:

Yeah, that trade off, isn’t it, potentially between the ease and the tick off the to-do list, catch up with them, it’s like, “Right, sent that message, that’s fine-

Ryan:

… Exactly.

Jack:

… rather than spending potentially a bit longer, but maybe getting more quality at like-

Ryan:

Exactly, exactly.

Jack:

… Not even really considering that the person on the other end of the-

Ryan:

Exactly. Don’t be tempted to go for efficiency over experience. That’s the absolute key there. So it’s always going to feel easier and more efficient to use the technology and support remote working and just do it in the quickest and easiest way. But longer term, we know what the impact of disengagement is. We know what the impact of losing people in labour turnover’s going to be. And if the data’s there telling us that people are less engaged when they’re working remotely, when they’re in the office environment, we need to address that. Otherwise we’re just going to have more people kind of leaving those roles. And then obviously organisations are going to be looking to kind of replace those. It’s going to be an absolute nightmare from a talent point of view.

Jack:

Yes.

Ryan:

And so, I absolutely think we need to look at this and think, well, we need to get the experience, right. And what’s absolutely key to this is making sure that people feel supported and they feel connected to what’s going on inside the business. Another example I can use from our own data and even using Hive’s own insight into our own company culture, we have a recognition tool called High Fives, so I can send, wherever I am, I can jump on my phone and I can send a High Five to anyone in the team for demonstrating what Hive’s values, or just generally for doing a great job on something.

Jack:

Yup.

Ryan:

So we then have a big screen out there in the main office where you could see almost like a Twitter feed, of all of these High Fives going through.

Jack:

Okay, yup.

Ryan:

If I was to take you out there now I’ll guarantee that 75% of the High Fives on that board will be between to and from people who are based in the office four or five days a week. So it’d be the developers, the customer success guys, the marketing team. The likes of my team, and maybe particularly the sales team are out on the road more often. They won’t feature on there as much.

Now, that’s not to say that they’re not doing great work. It’s not to say that the work that we’re all doing, isn’t equally appreciated, but it’s visibility.

Jack:

Yeah, sure.

Ryan:

It’s visibility. And it’s just something which I’ve kind of seen happen organically. And again, you relate this to remote workers. How much easier is it as a manager for you to say, great job on that, or well done, or thanks for your support on that to someone who’s there right in front of you in the office? And by the way, we still know that managers need to do a lot more of that because the recognition side of things is often the overlooked aspect of engagement. But still it’s so much easier for a peer or a manager to thank someone who’s there and then, rather than to be able to see all of the hard work and effort, and to just show that appreciation and gratitude to a remote worker.

So, even things like that are going to be a challenge that you might feel that you’re working remotely and you’re putting all of this effort in, but no one’s seeing it. No, one’s really kind of almost appreciating and understanding what you’re actually working on as well as not feeling like you’ve got that easy kind of line in, but just get a bit of support from someone. So I think there’re a couple of kind of real key areas there around where the difficulties actually stem from when it comes to working remotely.

Jack:

Yeah. And I think that’s kind of highlighted to me a really interesting point where, to me, it feels that this shift towards remote working… I’d maybe not say is new or young, but for it to be so commonplace and so widespread, it does feel quite new. And there’s probably a lot of these issues that will kind of cause bigger issues in companies and probably cause different challenges, six, nine months down the line, two years down the line. Because as things change and going from a majority of workforce that are based in the office five days a week to any variation on that, I guess, will highlight different things. And for the individual they’ll feel differently towards the company.

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s that connection, isn’t it? It’s that emotional connection and almost like the loyalty that you build to a particular brand and a particular organisation that you’re working for that is absolutely crucial to engagement. And, again, coming back to this risk with remote working, the last thing you want is for people to… I keep saying, not feeling a part of it. Not feeling as big a part of it, not feeling that connection because you’re not getting that buzz. You’re not around all of the other people and seeing all of the different areas that make up a business. Or you don’t get that sight and appreciation of what all the others are working on. I mentioned that perhaps people don’t get sight of what you’re working on, but it’s also difficult for you to see the other parts of it as well.

And like I say, for me, it’s that sense of like that isolation, that buzz? I mean, I crave walking into this office when I’ve been out… I was in Guildford for the last two days and I was with one of my colleagues and we were blasting out The Corrs on the drive up and just singing at the top of our voices. That’s obviously all good times-

Jack:

Questionable, but yeah-

Ryan:

Yeah, questionable song choices, but it really helps when you’re sitting on the M25 and you’re going through the typical kind of traffic. But, to walk in the office after a couple of days out and just see people that you’ve not seen since kind of mid last week and stuff like that, it’s just absolutely huge.

And I certainly have felt the energy kind of draining out of me sometimes when I’ve just been sitting working from home because you’re just desperate to hear someone else’s perspectives and stories about what’s going on in their world at the moment and stuff like that-

Jack:

Yeah, no, that’s-

Ryan:

… and that’s it.

Jack:

… it’s very true.

Ryan:

It’s a really interesting challenge because like you said, more and more people are going to be working remotely. And it’s something that we need to get right. But just before recording this, I was actually speaking with said colleague that loves singing The Corrs, and she was telling me that the best working relationship she has from her work experience pre-Hive is from a team of remote workers that she was in-

Jack:

Oh, really?

Ryan:

… in a hospitality industry. So it was like an HR, like L&D team that were all working and responsible for different hotels around the country. And she said that their relationship and friendships, which they’ve actually developed from it, all came through how regularly they spoke on the phone and how regularly they made sure they arranged to get together as a team. So it just comes back to that. It sounds very simple, but the more you can get your people together, the more you can get your people actually talking and not just using messaging or an email.

Jack:

Yeah. To me it’s interesting about kind of what you talking about the experience there in terms of the phone, because one of the things that we touched on briefly, and I want to see if you’ve got any more thoughts on, is kind of those tools. And in my head it was software. It was stuff like that, that would help managers and remote workers and internal comm directors and managers, and their employees stay engaged and keep the experience positive. Your colleague’s talking about the phone, that’s an obvious one. But totally bypassed my kind of preset list of Slack and Zoom or Hangout. So obviously the phone.

But yeah, I don’t know if there’s anything you’ve seen from either Hive or previous experience or some of your clients that kind of you’ve thought, yeah, that’s a really good way to keep everyone engaged and everyone on the same page, not just remote or not just people that are in the office-

Ryan:

It’s just about valuing their time, honestly. It sounds like a really simple answer to it. But if you think about like the one-to-one. Like the traditional one-to-one catch up, how often that gets pushed back or gets rescheduled because of other things that are really busy. As soon as you do that, you’re saying to someone, this meeting with such and such, or this issue, which has come up is more important than your experience of working here. It’s more important than how you’re feeling working here. It’s more important than your performance. It’s more important than your development. It’s more important than our relationship as a manager and an employee. As soon as you reschedule that one-to-one once, you’ve put that into the psychological contract there, that this is not as important as other things. And then once you do it once you’ll do it-

Jack:

Continuously.

Ryan:

… It’s easy. Once you’ve done it, that will then be the thing that you reschedule. And I can guarantee you pretty much every business that’s listening to this will have someone thinking I’ve either had multiple one-to-ones rescheduled or I’ve rescheduled my one-to-ones with my team. But then think about how much easier or more likely it is that managers particularly are then not going to have those kind of catch ups with the remote workers as well.

Jack:

So one’s not on the other side of this looking at them?

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. Or just making sure that, again, you value that time and you really think about what they need and what impact that it’s going to have to make them feel like they’ve got that regular support. Honestly, with the remote workers, I feel like you do need to think about how regularly you’re able to kind of contact and kind of keep in touch with them. It’s not just these messenger tools that, keeping in touch. You can imagine organisations will use kind of time tracking tools as well for remote workers so that they’re able to log what they’re working on, what their priorities are, how much time that they’re spending on each one. But what we need to make sure is that those remote workers are actually getting those calls. Like how’re you getting on? Is there anything you need some support with? How are things feeling at the moment? What you’re enjoying working on? What you’re perhaps not enjoying working on so much? They need that as much as the people who are over there in the office on the day to day.

And obviously, sometimes it’s easy to… They’ll walk past you and you look visibly frustrated. I can see that and then say to you, “Jack, is everything all right? You need a hand with anything?” You can’t see that when it’s a remote worker.

Jack:

Yeah.

Ryan:

And we all know that… And certainly the data is there as well that shows that people are far more likely to give support if they’re asked for it than they are to actually reach out and ask for support. So if you’ve got people all over the place that are willing to give support to others, but are apprehensive about reaching out and asking for support, what’s the challenge you’ve got there? You’ve got people who are perhaps sat at home, working remotely, not feeling so great. Feeling like they could do with a chat. Feeling like they could do with support. Feeling like they need to ask some questions. But perhaps not feeling confident enough or knowing what the right channel is to do it.

So a lot of it is about education, but the main bit of this is just value in that conversation and really understanding the importance.

Jack:

So it’s kind of, you mean it’s pushing those tools aside, isn’t it? Like you said right at the start, it’s kind of pushing that tools or software aside. It’s getting that value and that human craving another human social interaction that would drive that and then say, “Right, well, okay, well what’s available? How’s that person would prefer to be engaged with? And how’s most…”

Ryan:

The tools are the how. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Slack or whatever. The tools are the how. Fundamentally, organisations need to ask themselves why is it so important for us to communicate with one another? Why do we want to communicate? Why is it important for us to have engaged employees? Why is it important for us to deliver a great employee experience? And to start to build that out from there. The tools and the different channels for communication should be what comes after that. Not just oh, here’s a great channel that’s going to make it easiest for us to message each other. Let’s just procure that and introduce it.

You need to start off thinking about what that experience should feel like and asking some of these big questions around the challenges of remote workers, what they need from us. And then once you’ve answered those questions, you then go out and think, well, right, this tool would work well and it would plug that gap or it would certainly support that. But we will also know what’s going to be the right way to use this. And it’s the values and the behaviours that are going to be really important. And then the tools and the way in which we facilitate that, should be the second part of it, really.

Jack:

Yeah, no, that makes total sense. And, I guess it’s one of those kind of things that you see companies that do well, they always start with the why and the people that maybe don’t do so well are the ones that kind of jump straight into the solution or the tactics or the tools mode and-

Ryan:

Yeah, absolutely. Technology’s exciting, isn’t it? You get a new phone you get out of the box, you want to play with all the features. I guarantee you I don’t know half the things that my phone does because I don’t read the instruction booklet-

Jack:

You can even make phone calls on that one.

Ryan:

… Well just about. I’m not saying what the service provider is, but I do seem to get cut off every five seconds on that one. But it is an interesting one because the technology, obviously the way in which it’s sold, the way in which it’s packaged, it’s exciting. Everyone’s on this kind of digital transformation and they want to use new technologies. But it’s just taking that step back and thinking about actually, what’s really important to our people? And how do we protect that? How do we kind of nurture that in the right way, rather than just introducing new technologies and new tools, new mechanisms, and then kind of further down the line evaluating and thinking that perhaps hasn’t worked so well?

Jack:

Yeah, no, it makes total sense. Awesome. Well, coming quite close to the end now, and this one is a real brain scratcher. So, it’s called Remote Control, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you for your TV streaming film recommendations at the moment.

Ryan:

Well, that’s a really, really good one. A massive Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan.

Jack:

Oh, yeah.

Ryan:

So, I mean, I was even one of those who was kind of up on Twitter when they announced they were cancelling it after season five. But then within 24 hours of… Was it Fox cancelled it, I think, it was rescued by NBC and picked up. So Brooklyn Nine-Nine, absolutely massive for me. To be honest, my partner, Amy, she’s one of those that by the time we sit down and watch TV, she’ll just look for something kind of funny, and that doesn’t require kind of much engagement of the brain.

So we’ll end up watching Adam Sandler comedies and chick flicks and stuff like that. I must admit I probably sit there and watch them for longer than she does enjoy them. But no, from a streaming point of view, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is huge for me. But at the moment I’ve kind of got that typical backlog of recommendations. I think Money Heist is the one-

Jack:

Oh, yeah, that was mentioned to me.

Ryan:

… that’s been mentioned to me a few times. So I’ve got that on the list. But at the moment I’m kind of open to recommendations from you rather than anything that I must recommend. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I think it’s a really, really great program.

Jack:

My Netflix list gets added to, and then when I get to watch something, it’s never from my list, it’s always from something else-

Ryan:

From something else.

Jack:

… and it’s always half an hour scrolling, and then you don’t have time to watch what you wanted to watch in the first place.

Ryan:

Yeah. I must say the program, which has had the biggest impact on me, personally, in maybe the last three to five years plus was the Ricky Gervais After Life-

Jack:

Oh, right, yes.

Ryan:

… show on Netflix. Just personal experiences with mental health challenges and things like that. I just found the way in which he approached and kind of challenged and obviously brought humour to that topic as well-

Jack:

His distinct ramblings-

Ryan:

… I thought it was really, really powerful some of the messages in there, I thought were really, really great. And it was really well written. So I’m looking forward to the second season of that. But he’s obviously got that challenge, doesn’t he of making sure that a sequel or a second season can live up to the first, which is something I always find quite difficult.

Jack:

… Quite the difference to Brooklyn Nine-Nine as well.

Ryan:

Yeah, it is very, you’re right. It just shows that diversity doesn’t it, the hard-hitting stuff with the humour.

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Jack Ford

Author Jack Ford

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