Taking good care of employees is smart business, says psychologist Laura Hamill


This podcast is brought to you by the Voinovich School of Leadership and public affairs at Ohio. University Hi Everyone I'm Bev Joensuu and this is just about work where we talk about everything that might have an impact impact on your career in this episode. Our guest is psychologist Laura Hamill. She's the chief people officer and the Chief Science Officer at an intriguing software company located in Bellevue Washington. The company's Limi- and its mission is all about about creating a better employee. Experience lie made has built a software platform that helps its clients support. Their employees engagement inclusion and wellbeing. Laura is an expert in the science of care and today she'll tell us not only about linemates work but also about new research that shows that managing values like well being an inclusion is actually good for business the Laura. I'm so interested in hearing about lime made and the interesting things that the company's doing but before we get into that I would love to hear a little bit about your career and how we can. You became so passionate about taking good care of employees can you. Can you tell us a bit about how you found yourself on. This is path. Yeah absolutely thank you so much for having me Beverly I. I'm having an interesting childhood. I grew up in rural North Carolina and I grew up with parents who were hippies. They weren't went back to nature. They I grew up in a log cabin without electrcity and it was just kinda crazy upbringing but one of the key themes that happened a long way is that my a father really struggled to keep a job and with that. I just couldn't understand why that kept tap winning and the message I got from him all through my childhood was how awful work is He regularly talked about the You know the the supervisor the boss the manager and how miserably they that those people treated the employees and it really he got something going in my head it really got me thinking about is really. That's what I have to look forward to and I kept thinking to myself and it really evolved over time but I kept thinking to myself couldn't be better. I don't want to do that so I think really early. On in my childhood I started starting to feel like Gosh. I need to do something different on this topic. And I started to get interested in psychology first of all and then I found out about this field called organizational psychology so organizational psychology is the study of work. And those I think those kind of fundamental things that happened to me really set the stage for the work that I'm doing now that's a fascinating beginning when you Came out of school or did you work and then go back to school. Or what was your skin your pattern like so I went straight. I was an Undergrad and went straight from UNDERGRAD graduate school again. I guess growing up with humble up humble means I didn't have a lot of money and I was just determined end that I was going to go straight through and I'm just going to have an amazing career so I went straight. I went to. UNC Chapel Hill Undergrad. And then I went straight from there to graduate school into a PhD St Program and along the way I mean just had such amazing experiences but it took about seven years to get my PhD And you you know along pretty soon after after that I also started to understand another important influence on me which is the field of positive psychology so positive. Psychology is this idea that traditionally in psychology we tend to think about things that are are negative. Like kind of what's wrong with people So we tend to think when we think of psychology. We think of things like schizophrenia bipolar disorder. which are all of course really really important things to study but there was a lot of an emphasis on what is what does it take to have a great life or what does it take to have work be great? So the idea of positive psychology was a new field and so that's another important influence for me is really realizing gosh most Most ecologists focus on. What's wrong with things? I really was interested in studying and understanding. What's right with things? How could we study quality quality of life? How could we study having a great workplace? What are those things that have to be in place in order for that to happen? So positive psychology ecology has been another really important influence on me on really thinking about what could be that is fascinating we we do. Think about positive psychology. Sometimes on a podcast called jazzed about work. I it certainly the concepts of how much much choice we have and how we can we can change the very nature of not just our attitude but our brain that really. I think changes our relationship should ship to work is. Is that the kind of thing you look at exactly. I'm you can think about it at the individual level right like you were kind of inferring. Like how would our mindsets mindsets are and how we come when we interact with people at work. Do we assume positive intent. Are we open. Are we excited about seeing people right to be of energy about us. That's positive I'm but you could also think about it in terms of the creation of cultures right so thinking about it more in the aggregate. How could you create eight workplaces that fundamentally value people as mundane that creates work? That people want to work. That people WANNA do That really shows people that they're included that they belong and so the idea of positive psychology applied to workplace cultures is what I'm really interested in and I think there's so much potential right. Sadly there are a lot of people who work in organizations where they aren't aren't treated well and that's another thing. I really noticed in my early career on some different jobs that I had where people were pretty miserable Weren't treated well by their managers. Very stressed overwhelmed over. Worked a whole lot of you know self medicating with some wine every evening or overeating eating. Just kinda deal with the stress. And so that's what I think is so kind of fascinating is. I'm starting to see that organizations are rushing organizations are starting to realize gosh there is another way. We don't have to treat people in that command and control old old school traditional approach which doesn't kind of think about the employees in doesn't fundamentally value them as human beings. I I read somewhere recently. Recently I may be the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal that the Business Roundtable which of course is quite conservative organization representing large companies. The Business Roundtable has released a statement saying that companies don't exist Just to advance the interest of shareholders. Which of course is what I was taught in law school years ago but that they exist and have an obligation to think about all their stakeholders including employees the environment and beyond? Is that the change that that you see that the culture of Creating wellbeing is changing even the big companies. Now I think so. It's so exciting to see that. Change right I just really happy to see that. And it's one of those things better late than never but we're starting to see these ideas really catching on when we first started the company so I'm one of the CO founders of Li- made and when we first started the company fourteen years ago we would go and talk to people about this idea of caring thing about people and valuing people literally people would laugh at us and tell us this is never gonNA catch on. This is never gonNA work. It's about business right. This is just. This isn't about feelings. This isn't about you know treating people like humans this business and the way that the way that I'll show my employees that I care about them is by giving them a paycheck every two weeks right and so it's just it's really encouraging that organizations are starting to see this now of course it's not every organization but I'm seeing much more of an acceptance from leaders that maybe there's something here that how we treat our people. Aw could be really related to the business results we get and so it's really encouraging. Now there still are people who do do a little bit of maybe talking. The talk started talking about this and don't really walk the Walk Right. Like how is it that they actually make good intention. Come to life. And that's where I think. The hard work is they have to really actively show that they care. So what what it sounds like to be is that we've learned In coaching and in my field now that I'm no longer a lawyer that and we've learned from positive psychologist and all of their research that people who are happy and positive and upbeat and healthy. They are much more productive. They do better work there higher achievers. They're more innovative. They're better for the organization and it sounds like the next step that that may be the Business Roundtable group is is Taking is to acknowledge that taking care of people is good for the bottom line is good for business is so that sounds like it brings us to lie. Made in how. You're or ahead of the curve. I it sounds like you're working on tools for people who've made their leap the businesses that made the understanding. You've got tools to help them. Some actually do something about it. Is that correct. Yeah that's exactly it so not only. Do we know that at the individual level that those kinds of things that you just talked about around openness positively in resilience to those are those are good for human beings to have those they have. I'm to have better outcomes. We also know is that organizations that support people right that actively show through all of their people practices through all of the interactions that they have the employees and managers and leaders have with each other that if they feel supported they're going to get better better business results. That's research that one of my teams has found its research. That Gallup has found other great places to work. Organizations have found found that the more organizations can support their employees. The more likely you're going to get the results that you care about so through our product. That's what so you were bringing up. We really try to create a scalable way through technology for your in place to get that loud and clear message that we I care about you. We care about you and we want to support you. We want to help you have a great life overall. A big part of that is having a great eight life here at work so there's all kinds of examples of ways that we do that But it really is intended to be one place for employees to go where air for example they could take a wellbeing assessment and learn some areas that they might want to focus on and there are activities that help them do that or four. Maybe it's that they want to hear about what's the latest kind of update on the company strategy from the CEO and they watch a video from the CEO to learn about that or it's also also a great place to onboard new employees or learn at your manager learn how to be more inclusive with your team so the idea is is. How do we get people to take action on? How do we get the whole organization the managers and leaders to support that action to create a better airplane to work? So let me make sure I understand this. What you've created is basically software that can be used to to do a variety of sayings from promoting engagement and wellbeing to to creating greater transparency and and helping to break break down? The old hierarchy is. Is that right. That basically you're a software company. That's exactly right and everything. That's amnesty software. It is based on organizational psychology and positive psychology has a foundation in science. And that's one of my roles here at line made Is the chief science officer so we bring bring all of the science. There's a lot of existing amazing academic research But there's also research we're doing in research other organizations are doing bring that all together and we're trying to translate in that in that easy for us to put into software so it's a way for people from organizations to really think about scaling and reaching all of their employees through software and it's just really away for you to do that in systematically right for organizations to be able to point to something and say here's one example through this software platform. Here's one example that we show you that we well speaking of your research. I saw I guess it was an overview of a study on the science of care. It sounds like you were getting at What we're talking about before that the value of CARE is is measurable and it could be good for the company? If people are better cared for can you tell us about that study. Yeah for sure. Yeah this is a study. That Mcginn Line Meat Institute did one of the teams on one of the teams that I manage. And what are really interested in. Is this out this concept of worker and we don't tend to use. The word care are at work very much but really a lot of the things that are were acceptable employee. Engagement inclusion wellbeing being most contracts really are as that organization's earned so we wanted to really address. What we call Care Naysayers right now? The people who really just don't buy into this idea about caring about people the people who are in the ones who kinda think competitively about millennials or think that again that paycheck is the way. I'm going to show you that I care. So we wanted to address care naysayers through science science and say look you know this idea of care. There's something here and let's see what what we can learn about. How care is related to things you Mike Care about? So the first thing we've just looked at is how is the construct. What is this contract of care and there again? There's great academic research on this on this contract called organizational support theory organizational support. Theory is has been studied over and over and over again so we used that that construct is this come the foundation for our research and what we found is that care. The Con- The concept of CARE is strongly early correlated with wellbeing employee engagement and inclusion and that. That's probably not a surprise because again this those are probably ways that an organization can show they care but what we also found. I think it was a little bit more interesting. Is that the constructive care. The Concept of CARE is negatively related related with stress and negatively related to burn out. So the more you feel like your organization cares about you the less likely you are to feel feel stressed in the less likely you are to burn out and then finally the thing that I got really excited about was the concept of care was related related to employees intentions to stay in the organization and also related to their likelihood to recommend their company as a great place to work and just one little stat on that. What we found is that those employees in our in our study that said their organization does not care about them were nine nine percent favorable on recommending? Their company is a great place to work while those employees who felt like their organization did care about them were ninety one one percent favorable on recommending. Their company is a great place to work so a ten time difference ten times difference between those employees. It didn't feel cared for and those employees who did so really interesting kind of results that we found in this study. We'll be back with Bev after this brief message. The point of School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University is having having an impact today while providing innovative education for tomorrow's leaders the Masters Program in public administration. An and environmental studies lead students to greatness in nonprofit environmental public sector and government settings learn learn to lead at the Voinovich School. We're now accepting applications. Information is available at Ohio Dot. Edu backslash backslash school to change gears a little bit and ESCA a question that's been bothering me and maybe you have an answer for it. One thing we care about a lot on just about work and we've had some recent guess talking about. It is the concept of diversity and inclusion. It seems clear. Clear that when when people really are working together and you have a diversity of people you get better results but people who have been in the failed feeling discouraged it's It feels like we need some new ideas to promote diversity and inclusion do you. You have any research I that demonstrates that yes. My belief is correct and A diverse workforce inclusive workforce source is more likely to be innovative and productive. So do you have some research about that and then if you do how. How does the concept of diversity and inclusion relate to the workplace workplace culture overall. And how can you promote that. Yeah such good questions. I think what I find so fascinating about the topic of diversity and inclusion. Is this kind of underlying idea. And there's actually the theory for it called optimal distinctiveness theory which is kind of a big mouthful. But it's this idea that there's this tension within in each of us where we so desperately want to belong and be part of something bigger and have this connection but at the same time there's this tension action of we want to be ourselves right. We WanNa be valued for who we are individually. I call it like the we and me tension attention so that tension is always in place and so it's so hard. I think for organizations to walk that line because overdoing hanging either way right if we focus too much on kind of having everybody assimilate than we lose that individuality and then we've focused too much on the individuality. We have this cohesive feeling. We're all in this together and we're part of something bigger so it's such an important thing for organizations to understand so and what we find we found in some again. Some of our research in Miami Institute is that inclusion is very much related to the idea wing. It's also related to employee. Engagement and employee gates. Probably obvious right. How can you feel like you come to work every day that you can give your all? If for example your manager doesn't value your opinion. Or if you feel like you're really not can part of the organization so you don't matter so it's a porce. These these contracts conclusion wellbeing employee engagement are all all related to each other so your point about innovation I think is a fascinating one one of the things that we have kind of dug into his. Why is it that inclusion and innovation are are related to each other and just think about it from a real practical perspective that of course when you're at work when we're thinking about innovative innovating in an organization creativity right how? How did you create a place where people are coming up? Best idea and pushing on norms and creating new solutions. Well you have to have a variety of experiences and skills right and so that's probably pretty obvious from the diversity perspective. Is that so you want to have people who have all of those different backgrounds all of those different perspectives. Just to be able to think about things differently. So that's I think pretty obvious to many any but what's so tricky important. In addition to that is making sure that we have cultures that invite all those different perspectives and all those different voices that the teams that people are on that. There's there's a high level of trust and that it's non-threatening threatening not even more than non-threatening right. It's it's gotta be a place where people feel psychologically safe so if I screw up if I come up with an idea that's just right. That doesn't make any sense that that we decide not to do. I kind of feel like I can say that. And there's not going to be a negative consequence sequence right or some sort of repercussion for saying something that's kind of crazy because maybe the next time I bring up something that's kind of crazy that's so different than what anybody would expect. Maybe maybe that is an an an idea that would work so the voice that employees have psychological safety. That feeling that you know my voice matters you want to hear from me like my voice. I have confidence in being able to speak up That those are things that have to be in place and you know really how how not only within that team how that happens but how that happens across teams so there's so much hard work we have to do in organizations to create create those conditions where people feel like. They're diverse experiences that they bring can really come to life so so you're talking about concepts that are really exciting. And I know that the software that you provide your clients is supportive of these concepts. Epson you're working with them to change the culture at their organizations. But I'd like to hear a bit about. How are you doing at at lime made? How are you managing managing and changing and supporting your culture in your company? Yeah absolutely so. I didn't mention Shen that I have two roles here so I am that she signs officer. So that's the line made institute piece. I was talking about where the team that that does this research that I've been describing the second role I have is chief people officer so that means I'm in charge of our what we call our people team or the you can think of it as a human resources function and we feel so. Oh strongly that gossip we're doing all this research and we're kind of wagging our fingers and everybody else about on the things that they should be doing to create great places to work that man. We better be doing those same things so really having some integrity with you know what we're telling everybody else in what we're doing ourselves so we feel so strongly that here at meade we have to work on that and it's and it's our right we're growth company. We've grown grown. Really Fast added a lot of employees in a short period of times with it is not an easy thing but we absolutely focus on trying to make a great place to work in the way that we do that as I we use our own product reliving our a product we really have to have employees understand it and we learned from our own experiences in our product. Things that need to be improved things that need to change change in our product. So that's that's one way we do it I I'd say the second piece. The most one of the most important pieces is how our values became something that are very tangible for our employees. And it's not just a set of ideas on a website that you know everybody else. HAS WE WANNA make sure sure that our values are really the standards for how we treat each other and part of our everyday conversation and so we use our values news as the foundation for every part of our people practice. So it's how we think about hiring people. It's how we onboard people when we think about performance management half of an employee's performance management is around living the values when we think about promoting people. It's how do they live the value news. I'm so the values piece a really. That's just a huge for us and we also have this measure called the Great Company Index. We use we use measures of wellbeing engagement and our values to really measure our progress year-over-year so so we think the metrics are so important. And I guess I just finished this with. We feel strongly about our leaders and managers and how they're supporting our employees. We have the amazing managers who we just see again in the way we measure this over time that they are absolutely in the day to day. They're supporting wording employee's and really authentically carrying about them. We also are leaders. Were are so deeply committed to our people and we are continue. Continue to make sure that our leaders are encouraging employees. To speak up to have a voice to talk about things that that we need to talk about so that as we grow fast that we're really doing our best to to be a place where we care about our employees. Well I I have one final question that I've been thinking about as you've been talking about all the wonderful things you're doing and I think the word value may be part of the answer. What I've been thinking about is I've been Listening is I wow sounds like a great company to work but that reminded minded. May that many of our listeners are either Running small businesses with limited resources. Or maybe these are and managers in companies. That don't have the kind of culture you're talking about. And they don't have access to the tools or To the leadership principles that you've embedded into your culture so my question is for for leaders who don't have a lot of resources and maybe they're even part of organizations that aren't fully functional. What What can be done to create a more caring environment? How can these leaders better support their team members? Yeah this is so important beverly Beverley this is. It's so important for people for your listeners to understand that you actually can't buy this right you can't just even then we sell software right. You can't just buy software and turn it on and expect all of a sudden this is what's going to happen that your employees are GonNa feel cared for. It's hard you're work on. You have to get the company a line. You have to find ways to authentically demonstrate care on so there's a lot of hard work that I think leaders small companies absolutely can put into place. You'd think about big companies that we all know wealthy companies who have juice bars and shops new bat big parties and this is just surface level right. Its surface level perks. It doesn't work especially especially if those people are going back to their office and going back to their cube and feeling like nobody cares about them that they're not valued that they're not included booted. You can have all the parties in the world all the Margarita Fridays you want and it's not gonNa work so I would really encourage people who are managers in organization initiation small business owners you know. Do the hard work do the hard work in what happens behind closed doors. How people feel feel like you're treating them supporting them valuing them? That's you can do that. Anybody can do that. They can make a choice in their day to day. Work Mark how they're treating their peers their employees and other other people in the organization so I would really like some questions. I would pose if your manager manager or small business owner. How you know the first one is how are you personally demonstrating that you care about your employees? Think about that in in and the data day in our actions you have with everybody. Are you treating them whole people. Are you valuing down for other things that they're doing besides what they're doing for you you at work. How are you encouraging invaluable? Supporting them at work. A big part of this is do you listen to them. Do they have a voice. I still I mean really. Listen right everybody can tell when. Somebody's just kind of like. Oh yeah pretending to listen but is there active listening. Are you really hearing what people are saying. And do you prioritize your employees when you're making business decisions what role do you think. Employers is. Play when you're thinking about next year strategy when you're thinking about the resources you need are you thinking about work load timing their professional development elleman growth and for small businesses. If you're doing those things to what extent do you think your managers and your leaders are doing matt. What do you feel like? They're aligned. That they understand how much value people and then finally just think you know. What is that consistent? Authentic Santic message that you're sending your employees that their fundamental to your business success that it's only through people that you're going to be successful and and you care about them in need them to to to come to work and do their best work. So are you sending that consistent in authentic message so a simple starting point say somebody wants is inspired by Your wonderful comments and wants to start today and SAS to be that a good starting starting point might be to write down. What is a key values? You want the culture here to represent that you want you as a person listen to represent and and maybe the next step is you say okay. How do I want to be a leader? What does a leader who uses uses that value look like and then the third step might be okay? I want to be a leader. Who looks like this and acts like this this so the the next step is to find small ways that you can act like that you can start behaving adding more like the kind of caring leader? You'd like to have perhaps. Is that a simple way to begin such a good example. Such a simple way right and it's I think so many times. Many of us have seen leaders that we don't WanNa be like right and the people who do you know who aren't great examples. And so why don't you you have the courage to say I'm not going to be one of those. I want to be good. I'm going to be a role model about how to treat people at work so I love that beverly. It's a great a great idea. Great example one even if people people feel like. That's a lot or intimidated by that. A simple simple thing is just ask their employees. How are you right? How are you and listen to the response right? Help people understand that you care about them in a bigger way than just the status Datas of the latest project that you care about them as human beings and you don't have to be the leader to do that. You can start having an impact on the culture of wherever you are by having that. Be Your way of connecting with other people. This is such a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much Laura I just want to mention again that The name of that study that I found so interesting is the science of care and it is this on From the Lie Mate Institute in it's on your website Karagwe Limi- dot Com L. I. M. E. E. DOT COM okay. Well thanks again for joining me today and I'm GonNa continue to follow your good work. Awesome thank you so much beverly. I enjoyed it so much today. We've been talking with organizational psychologist. Laura Hamma chief people officer apply made about why a culture of CARE is actually good for business. This podcast is produced deuce by W. O.. Ub Public Media Adam. Riches are audio engineer. I'm your host Bev Jones. Also think like an entrepreneur act like a CEO Wpro. Today's career tip. Is that if you devote time to take care of yourself and you find time to exercise and be with your family and have fun on your actually accomplish more in your career

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