Episode 12: A Look at Managing Non-Desk Employees with Patrick Goodman
Communication is absolutely critical in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. But how and who communicates is important too. This is especially important when managing non-desk employees, as Patrick Goodman with Redeapp discusses in today’s episode. There is a critical middle, the manager level, that needs to be keeping a communication cadence with those employees. And that communication needs to have empathy and understanding about what is actually important at the moment.
In this episode of Employee Connectedness, Unitonomy founder Charley Miller discusses communication and finding the life-work balance during the COVID-19 crisis with OnPlane consultant Martin Low and Patrick Goodman, Chief Customer Officer at Redeapp.
In this discussion, they will address how leadership, but especially the managers directly connected to non-desk employees, can best communicate and support this kind of worker during the crisis. Making sure communication channels are flowing both ways, as well as putting “life” first in the “life-work balance” is essential during this time of crisis.
Episode 12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKoQGkWl59Y
Employee Connectedness is live-streamed weekdays at 10:15am EST on the Unitonomy YouTube channel. You can join there and ask questions in the chat. You can also find previous episodes posted there and on the Unitonomy blog.
Employee Connectedness: A Look at Managing Non-Desk Employees with Patrick Goodman
Charley Miller 0:09
I’m Charley Miller with Unitonomy. I’m joined by Martin Low, you recognize from On Plane Consulting. And today we have a special guest: Patrick Goodman from Redeapp. Thank you, Patrick for joining us from your backyard here. We’re here on April 24th, we’re a few months into this social distancing thing, it feels like with the pandemic. We started the show right at the beginning of this thing to talk about Employee Connectedness, which takes a lot of different forms when we talk about leadership and managing people and how to make sure people are taking care of during this environment. Patrick, yeah, thanks for joining us. And as I was started, I went down the rabbit hole yesterday, reading blog posts Redeapp puts out related to all things, leadership, and helping people get through to things and how to work remotely. I want to just kind of tee it up to you first off to just say how are things going for your firm right now through all of this?
Patrick Goodman 0:29
Yeah. So first, thanks for having me on. Happy to chat about what we’re, you know, working on as a company and what we’re building. But to your question, I mean I think we’re a work we’re doing pretty well. Probably 25% of our workforce was already remote across the US and so for at least that, you know, part of our employees said they were like okay it’s just like another normal day. But the other 75% of us, me being one of those being a work from home or as one of my colleagues won’t say we’re not really in work from home mode. We’re at home, trying to stay safe and trying to be home school teachers and all this in the midst of a crisis. So, I mean we’re healthy thankfully. We are you know doing well as a firm. I will say though as a engineer who loves whiteboards and markers and collaborating kind of face to face working and designing and creating things, it’s, it’s a pretty decent challenge for me just to kind of be, you know, stuck in my house. And I’m on call and I’m sitting outside because it’s probably if I’m honest the most quiet places and I’ve got birds and things going on around me. But it is definitely, it’s a different normal. I’m not even sure what normal was, you know, because we’re now what five, six weeks, I lost track at this point. I thought we’re going but all in all, I mean we’re, we’re doing well. So, thanks for having me on.
Charley Miller 1:55
Good to checkout. Now tell everyone exactly what Redeapp provides What are you doing with your business?
Patrick Goodman 2:02
Yeah so Redeapp was an idea really born in 2012. And of course being based in the Midwest, there is a huge employee segment that is often really misunderstood from a perspective of what types of, you know, work productivity tools or communications that they would need in order to be productive, efficient and get their work done. And so you know we learned early on with you know thousands of hours of conversations with customers, you know, frontline workers, that hey there’s a workforce that we kind of turn that non desk workforce. These are the men and women who are in coffee shops. They’re baristas, they’re our home health assisted living workers, they’re manufacturing industrial construction workers, they’re hospitality type workers in the gaming industry, casino workers, hotel workers. And one thing that we learned early on is that for probably, you know, 90% of those workforce they’re really not been given many of the, if you will, digital productivity tools that many, you know desktop workers have like company email and SharePoint and Microsoft Teams and Slack, and if you’re in development, you’ve got Atlassian and Jira and Confluence and a host of other things that you use in order to get your work done.
But if you’re a different worker who is working in front of customers, working with customers, building washers and dryers, you’re building Tesla cars or batteries or you’re dealing, you know, hands a poker or blackjack, you’re not really working on those tools. And so we really had to learn what would be really important to have in a communication productivity toolset to help this worker really be efficient in their job. And kind of as we said really, it’s how do we help this unique type of workforce get ready for work. So really, you know, eight years now really building out and learning more about this worker has been at least from, you know, being a guy who loves to architect and build things has, has been a whole lot of fun for me . Getting down and really asking some financial questions and really challenging many assumptions that I had as a desktop worker of what’s important in my day to day work life.
Charley Miller 4:31
Yeah, this is great to hear Martin, do you want to do, you have a question?
Martin Low 4:35
Yeah. So, I think, Patrick you know we’ve talked quite a bit about Redeapp and how important it is, you know. When I first met you I think it was probably every bit of maybe two, maybe even three years ago, when we first started talking. I think what’s interesting to me is that everything that you said was important two years ago, it’s important now. I think because of all the stuff that we’ve been going through over the last six weeks, you know, like it’s even more important now because you start to see the gaps in communication that happened when whenever they get stuck. What kind of gaps have you seen companies wake up to over the last you know six weeks? And how have you seen them work to solve that problem?
Patrick Goodman 5:25
Now, that’s a great question and I’ll try and be as succinct and brief as I can. But, you know, really a lot of companies because we’re still fairly early in helping identify what this worker needs and wants to get their job done and then the next layer up of like leadership and management. For many people are like well okay that’s, that’s really a “nice to have” you know. Some could say it’s really a “need to have” from a operational efficiency and productivity standpoint. Well those conversations about, you know, “nice to have” are really kind of going because our existing customers that you’re like, you know, it’s, it’s heartwarming but it’s the same time heartbreaking to know what’s happening to these companies as employees are, you know, being laid off. They’re being furloughed, there’s a lot of uncertainty for them. But we have lots of customers, the admins who kind of run the product for their employees, or their employees themselves who, you know, call into our support team. In other words, or like you know thank heavens, you know that we have a tool like this because now to make communication really is becoming so much the driving force in like the heartbeat of a company.
It’s not just simply I’m communicating out like company news or information. I’m communicating “how can I help my employees be safe at work?” How can I communicate and how can I empower leaders to communicate related to “should I even come back to work?” and if I do that, “how do I do this safely, not only for myself but for my other co-workers?” So, you know, on normal days, our support level because we handle all the, you know, people forget passwords, get a new phone. We help people help these employee set to get back in but you know our volumes like eight and 10 X of what it was just six weeks ago because it is so crucial now. And just the number of inbound leads coming in for companies saying “okay, we get it, we really, really need this yesterday, how can you help us?” That so in that regard those are some of the really tipping points that we have seen. Companies realize it really is important because, honestly, doing bulletin boards and direct mail and payroll stuffers is just not going to cut it at the time of the crisis, it just won’t. And it’s too important in the health and safety of our employees and their well-being is critical right now.
It’s not just …communicating out company news or information. [It’s] communicating “how can I help my employees be safe at work?” How can I communicate and how can I empower leaders to communicate related to “should I even come back to work?” and if I do that, “how do I do this safely, not only for myself but for my other co-workers?”Patrick Goodman, Redeapp
Charley Miller 7:48
I love that because I think everyone has this old school idea, unfortunately, that leadership is someone who stands up on a pedestal and projects out you know here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it, and communication is this one way waterfall down. And that’s just not true. I think the best leadership, you see, is someone that really knows how to use his or her ears, right? You have to be a great listener, absorb information, and then act on it. And it’s not just getting the information back from employees right? It’s also being developing empathy and really creating a culture where people know that the higher-ups are always open to hearing in one window, and Redeapp is helping facilitate that back and forth what is true communication the two-way street. That’s fantastic to know, especially since your business models really shaped around the employees that often aren’t heard because they’re out in the field doing stuff. They don’t have the mechanisms to engage. That’s fantastic.
Everyone has this old school idea, unfortunately, that leadership is someone who stands up on a pedestal and projects out here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it, and communication is this one-way waterfall down. And that’s just not true…the best leadership is someone that really knows how to use his or her ears, right? You have to be a great listener, absorb information, and then act on it. And it’s not just getting the information back from employees, right? It’s also being developing empathy and really creating a culture where people know that the higher-ups are always open to hearing…Charley Miller, Founder of Unitonomy
Patrick Goodman 8:47
Yeah, there’s, there really is this misunderstanding. I think at times, because through no fault of their own, right so a lot of leadership teams, they have a lot of tools and looking at you know dashboards on, you know, a 20-inch monitor, right and what’s the KPIs performance for my business. But what they often miss is if I’m a frontline manager or leader and I manage a team of 50, 100, maybe sometimes 500 people at a manufacturing facility, or I’m managing an assisted living campus of 120 people…how do I communicate to them, right now? Right there’s no dashboard for me and that’s because, right now COVID has changed everything so much, it’s not just daily, it’s like hourly. And so if I don’t have a way, a tool to if it’s in my pocket, pull up my phone and say, you know, based on what’s going on, here’s what you need to know about. And what that really does it allows me to communicate but also allows employees to respond in a very structured way so that their voices are heard. They’re informed about what’s going on. Because really the way that for many people, right now, one of the challenges or one of…because there’s so many unknowns. There are things that we know and there are things that we don’t know. But in times like this, if employers have a means by which they can effectively and consistently and clearly communicate to their workforce and let them be heard, let them know what’s going on, because that continual information is what’s going to help alleviate some of those fears.
And I think ultimately whatever point in the future really kind of moves the country back on a path to helping you know reopening up its workforce in a very safe way, those types of things right now, and having the ability to do that is really really critical for companies who are looking to engage with empathy with employees and understand it. Because we’re all in this together right? COVID doesn’t care if you got a desk or non desk or, you know, you’re sitting outside on your on your patio, the virus doesn’t care, but companies can really show lots of empathy and how they communicate, often, you know, with their employees.
COVID doesn’t care if you got a desk or non-desk or, you know, you’re sitting outside on your on your patio, the virus doesn’t care, but companies can really show lots of empathy and how they communicate often with their employees.Patrick Goodman, Redeapp
Charley Miller 10:57
I have a question for both of you and Martin maybe you want to take the first stab at this, but what are some tips that you would give to the leader of an organization to not just ask the right questions but also how do you showcase vulnerability? It is something that I hear a lot about right now like you leaders need to show vulnerability because they don’t have all the answers things are changing day by day as Patrick mentioned…was I just muted? Yep. Okay. As long as we’re recording this. It was an amazing question so let me ask it again. Sorry. Alright so thinking about some tips to get to leadership inside companies that, yes, what are the questions they should be asking but also what is a real authentic way of projecting vulnerability. We hear a lot of people talking about leadership needs to show vulnerability right now because as Patrick mentioned. Look. Things are changing day by day, like we don’t really know what’s around the corner right now because things are evolving so fast with COVID-19, as it affects work, how do you project vulnerability in an authentic way? Martin, you want to take that first?
Martin Low 12:02
Yeah, well, I think, I think there’s a couple things. One is I think about communication, generally, you know from being somebody that did surveys at large companies like Amazon like across their network of buildings or at comments or other large manufacturers, communication was always the worst score. Like always, on every one of those surveys and every one of those companies. If everything was at 90%, communication would be at 70%. If everything was at 70%, communication would be like 20%. And I think it comes with a few just basic things that people can do. Now, the first one is is establish a cadence and rhythm, so that people know what to expect. Right, like I think that that is is the first thing. The second thing is, is the shorter and more succinct you are, the better chance you have of people actually understanding your message. So, you know, there’s a lot of people right now who are trying to say, “I’m in it with you, I’m having a hard time too.” And they’re getting publicly flogged because David Geffen says this from his yacht right? And everybody’s looking at that and go “you’re not in this with me at all.” And I don’t think that that was his intent, you know, I don’t think he posted that and went like “haha.” I’m sure everybody will do and I think he didn’t post a message in a way that was clear to what people want. So, you know, to start with, short succinct. I know what I’m going to get to communication, I know what to expect. Anything you can do to make it easy for people to understand and give them some certainty around when they’re going to get it. Certainty is hard to find, and mindshare is hard to find right now. So, you know, short sayings, very clear, and then get on some sort of rhythm and cadence, and then I don’t know you know I’m sure Redeapp does quite a bit on this too, so I’d love to hear what Patrick thinks.
First…establish a cadence and rhythm, so that people know what to expect. Second…the shorter and more succinct you are, the better chance you have of people actually understanding your message.Martin Low, On Plane Consulting
Patrick Goodman 13:55
Yeah, it’s really helpful. And to kind of take and build on what you just said there, Martin, the daily, what we have seen so far…because part of our business we have a success team. So once companies come on board, we kind of help them, you know, get up and running, but we’ve had lots of interactions with customers. And so some of the best ones right now, I could think of several in our manufacturing vertical where they’re doing, to your point, Martin, daily they do daily videos. They take a leader and–here’s the important part about your yacht. This plant manager is not on a yacht. She’s standing in on the plant floor and doing a three-minute video about “here’s what’s changing,” “here’s how we implemented this new, you know, check-in process to help make sure that we’re taking temperatures for all the role that come down there, all the visitors who come in.” They’re sending out daily like here are the number of known and active coronavirus cases.
Specifically, we’ve seen others who are, you know, going to assisted living campuses, you know, taking videos, a little bit. Literally pulling out hey here’s my iPhone. Let me record a video because I’m right now at you know this campus, you know ABC, and I’m going to talk to these employees. And here are the top three concerns right now and I’ve been here for 20 minutes. And here are the three concerns that people have, you know, how are we going to you know be safe for the next week or the next month? How are we going to know that we’re gonna get paid? It’s one of the biggest questions that employees have right now about you know what’s my long term, you know, financial stability. And so having, you know, you know, leadership share this in a very meaningful way, you know, no offense to CEOs at the big desk, but really you know it’s time to get out from behind your desk. Go stand where your employees are and see how they really are, you know, feeling this impact to them.
No offense to CEOs at the big desk, but…it’s time to get out from behind your desk. Go stand where your employees are and see how they really are feeling this impact to them.Patrick Goodman, Redeapp
So, you know, those are some things we’ve seen a lot. And then of course, you’ve got the leadership message but then what really you know that a company may hear from a leadership say once a day. But it’s the next layer down that the manager layer we call that layer the critical middle. This layer of leadership for a company is critical right now because as the old saying goes, that, you know, an employee doesn’t leave a company they leave their manager. So, how empathetic, how caring, how understanding to, you know your your comment earlier Charley How are the ears? How two ears…, if you will, does this manager, manage from or is it you know three mouths and one ear, you know. How’s he doing that well and effectively right now. As soon as employees have questions, hey, this came up I can’t come in, you know, and then being able to know that I sent the message to the manager, he read the message, but also then having a two-way communication channel because that really is going to help you know broker long term confidence and commitment to that employee to that organization for the mission that they’re trying to achieve.
It’s the next layer down…the manager layer. We call that layer the critical middle. This layer of leadership for a company is critical right now because as the old saying goes, an employee doesn’t leave a company, they leave their manager.Patrick Goodman, Redeapp
Charley Miller 16:54
I love that critical middle. That’s a really nice way of saying it, because it really is a critical area where managers can thrive. And of course there’s going to be a lot of people in that critical middle that really probably feel unprepared right now for how to do this. So the great for sharing that. Maybe a good place to end it today is just each of you, if you could offer up sort of one parting thought of advice for anyone in a field where they’re not like me where I get to work behind a computer all day in my basement, and I’m fairly protected from everything that’s happening, being able to work remotely, but people that are in the field right now, go on about their business because they have to if they if one of those people could give their manager, one piece of advice, you know, what would it be right now for what’s happening. Oh, Martin, I’ll go with you first.
Martin Low 17:48
Yeah, so I’m gonna start with assume positive intent. And the reason why I think positive intent is so important right now is that we’re used to having a structured set of rules where we can say this is the role, and here’s how I’m going to follow the rule. And what’s happening right now with government regulation, inside of companies themselves, is to Patrick’s point, this is moving in some cases, it’s moving almost hourly in terms of what someone should do or how they need to respond. Whether that’s how they’re dealing with a home situation, whether that’s how we’re dealing with regulations coming from, from the government, whether that’s you know how a customer or how a business is taking care of the customer, it’s all moving really quickly. And you have to kind of sometimes make these snap decisions where there’s no black and white rule or there’s no past practice to go back to and say well how do we solve this last year when it came up.
And where I see people really get jammed up, is they assume either positive intent like, “Hey, this is a weird time, I’m gonna assume that this person is not trying to get one over on me, I’m gonna do the right thing by them and know that it’ll sort itself out,” or this say, “Oh, I bet this person, I bet this employee just stays at home because they don’t want to work.” Right. Well you don’t actually know that, and then the places where I feel that like real problem questions are, they’ve started from a “I want to set this up in a way that my, whether it’s customers or business partners employees can’t screw me by doing something nefarious inside of this framework” instead of saying, “Hey, I think everybody actually wants to be here, I think everybody’s trying to do their best I also know that everybody’s in a weird situation I can’t make a rule for all of it. I’m going to assume that this person is going to try and do their best, and I’m going to treat them that way because 95% of the time I’m going to be right. And I’m not going to treat 95% of my people, like a problem 1% or 5% of whatever” Because they’re gonna remember this for like a long long time. So the start your decisions with, assuming positive intent that people are gonna try and do their best and use that as your framework.
Patrick Goodman 20:04
Yeah man, I love that. It’s helpful. Really kind of what I’m gonna say is sort of an echo of that. You know what I would really say to a manager, leader who’s a workhorse right now is that for a long time we started this conversation about a work-life balance, I think really right now it has to be flipped it has to be life-work balance. Being a whole human right now, knowing that to Martin’s point, our kids, our families, our relationships will remember this forever.
So if it’s you know two in the afternoon and my kid’s like “hey I want to go outside throw a football.” And I close the computer and I’m not on Slack and my little green dots not on, okay. And I expect, I welcome that from the rest of our team. You know right now, I’ve got a middle school daughter who loves baking right, so we’ve done all kinds of chocolate cakes doughnuts and making you know we’re watching Netflix shows once again because she’s gonna be able to remember these really unique times that it wasn’t just that he was almost always on a Zoom call. Even though Daddy looks the new term I learned this morning called “Zoom exhausted.” It might be a term I understand that. And so the same as with as an employee but also someone who leads people just recognize we’re in a life-work balance, not the other way around right now.
Charley Miller 21:23
I love that. Well thank you so much for joining us, Patrick Goodman, as we all pursue our life-work balance. This is really great to get some thoughts from you today and everyone check out Redeapp.com. It’s a really awesome product. Martin thank you as well. Yeah, and this is great. All right, everyone. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.