This is the transcript of this week’s conversation with Scott Behson. We talked in-depth about his latest book, “The Whole-Person Workplace: Building Better Workplaces Through Work-Life, Wellness, and Employee Support.” You can go here to listen to the podcast conversation or read the transcript. By the way, you can also listen to the complete transcript via the player above.
Thank you very much. This is the voice of job seekers’ life, and I’m glad to be back with you bringing you a series of authors and thought leaders. As we talk about the future of work, we’re talking about—present and future of job search.
And my first guest is Scott Behson, who I’ve known for a long time. He is a professor at fairly Dickinson university and has been doing that for a lot of years. And of course, he studies the family, marriage, and workplace dynamic. And Hey, this is not a mistake. If you ever needed a great resource and great books on that particular topic, he is the guy you want to look up for his series of books and his articles that he’s written all over the place.
And of course, you can also catch some of the interviews that he’s done, which are about the, maybe, probably hundreds of them, maybe at this particular point. But Scott, thank you very much for coming back to your book, the whole person workplace. Building better workplaces through work-life wellness and employee support.
And it’s coming out in a couple of weeks. You are. You’ve been studying this for a long time. I guess it is a subtitle to everything else you’ve been doing throughout the years. Yes. So first off, Mark, great to be here, and I’m this cool new format and everything I’m excited about.
But yes, you’re right. So I’ve been a management professor for a long time. So I’ve been studying workplaces and organizations. My initial focus was really on a work family and work-life things like parental leave, workplace flexibility. And you know, then I had kind of like my academic mid-career crisis, where I was like, I don’t want to write for like 50 other academics in this boring, like, you know, jargony journals.
And I’m like, well, who really needs good information about work-life issues and work-life challenges. And the first was working parents. And that was my prior book, The Working Dad Survival Guide, which is, I think, the first time we did a podcast or something together. And now this is for employers.
So how can employers, managers, HR types build better workplaces that work for everybody and help employees in their lives? Like recognizing that they’re not just like, they don’t just exist from nine to five. And they don’t have a piece of themselves at work. Like they’re a whole person.
If employers can recognize that, then it opens up like, well, how do we make sure that this whole person who works for me is okay, is well, is not stressed and anxious. And we can maybe help them with some of their responsibilities, priorities, stressors, challenges they face in their lives.
Well, you know, that’s very interesting. You should say that because we’re seeing the trend now where some companies have returnship programs for those working remotely and they’ve been or they’ve been on pregnancy leave or taking care of a loved one, whatever they’re coming back to the forest. There are companies, and there are some large entities that are saying, Hey, welcome back.
Let us help you onboard. Is that a good step as far as you’re concerned, as far as accepting people and embracing the whole? Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, you know, it’s been a horrible two years for everybody in so many ways. One silver lining in this very, very black cloud is that workplaces have begun experimenting and thinking more creatively about their employees and including things like returnship programs.
Maybe five years ago, someone who had a baby or whatever else didn’t think they could make it work right between having, you know, growing their family and working at that employer. And what returnship program really says is, you know what, that was our sorry, like that was our fault. Let, let’s bring you back and, you know, make sure that, you know, you could get back onto your career track, and we can give you the support now that perhaps we.
Either chose not to, or weren’t capable of doing a before and a lot more employers, I think have gotten the message again, over the last 18 months of seeing, seeing the living rooms of their employees and their cats and their children walking, you know, that like the employee doesn’t cease existing when the Workday ends.
Right. And that is how well someone is feeling outside of work and backs work. So I think more smart employers have recognized that the wall, the false wall between work and life, you know, is now recognized as more false than it had been before. And that opens up opportunities to do things like, you know, again, Life things like leave and flexibility, but it also includes things like help for elder care or continuing education or giving people time to volunteer or just respecting paid time off or designing work in a way that people feel better about what they’re doing.
There’s a whole host of ways we can, you know, help our employees feel good as whole people. And that returns to us by building a great culture, a place where people want to work. And we’ll see. Yeah. Well, I think the two, there’s a struggle with some other employers. Who are not just a battle between, you know, whether they should work in the office or not?
But for the fact that they do not always recognize people as the whole person because I think that people are going in and they’re expected that their behavior is going to ignore the fact that they have a child running back and forth in the background or that the pet comes in the middle of a, of a webcam.
Do you think you know what kind of things you see where there might be an adjustment period? For both the employer and the employee and in this new environment and what we should expect. For people to accept each other as old. Yeah. So just to you know, you didn’t say this, but just to, to, to talk about one misconception is that all person workplace means that anything goes and blah, you know, that that’s not the case.
It means that you know, cause some people to get the impression that this is like, oh, you know, people are gonna, you’ll be a doormat if you do the, you know, but no, I mean, it just means you lead with trust. And then, you know, trying to figure out ways to be supportive and then, you know, most people rise to that.
Right. And those who don’t, then, manage and adjust, and maybe, you know, somebody is not a good fit for you or something down the line. But anyway, but getting to your question, yeah, I think that there’s you know, there’s the issue between yeah. We don’t want to monopolize somebody’s life.
Overworking somebody and blurring those lines is not a way to be a whole-person employer. Right. That’s not taking care of somebody as a whole person. That’s exploiting more of their time as an employee. Right. So it’s going to be an adjustment period, as, as you say, you know, so many, I think the summer for most employers was like, here’s our plan for returning to the workplace or returning most of our people, most of the time, the fall.
And I think times with like back to school is when most employers were like, okay, this is when we’re going to lock in our new way of doing things. Of course, now with the Delta variant and all these other things, all this stuff is being thrown into chaos. Right. And then I think maybe getting into winter-spring, I think this is when it’s going to sort itself out, organizations are going to learn, and employees are going to learn through this transition period.
It’d be like, okay, this is how we’re going to run things, but this is the time for experimentation. You know, with, yeah. I was just saying, with Delta variant and you know, who knows things get worse, maybe schools don’t bring their kids back in person. And then if you were bringing all your employees back in person, like now, what do you do?
How do you support these people? So you need, I think the number one key for employers right now is to retain at least some elements of flexibility so that you’re resilient when conditions change and do what you can to make sure people are psychologically safe to either come back to the workplace or whatever else we’re asking them to do.
So we want to make sure people feel all right, again, the stress of like, oh my God, my unvaccinated, a young kid is going back to school. That’s anxiety, you know, is there something an employer can do about that? Maybe there isn’t, but at least the compassion and the empathy would be helpful, but maybe altering somebody’s schedules so they can do drop-off.
No, it was a specific thing they could do. So anyway, but I think just having that empathetic mindset and then, you know, allowing you know, just being agile as an employer is really, really important. Because, you know, we saw this great resignation and the great reset, right? I think a lot of that’s employees who felt like their employer didn’t really consider their needs during the last 18 months or so looking for maybe opportunities where an employee.
Yeah. As you mentioned, I think the most agile company is going to win, and they also have to think about winning the best talent. So, in essence, what are the best? How is the best talent showing up is going to be the way the company often is going to go because they’re going to want that.
And they’re going because they know at the end of it, all that there’s profit and gain. And other factors benefit them solely more so than the employee. So you know, again, the whole person workplace you know, I’m envisioning as more than just like employers doing this in self-interest, they’re doing it, hopefully in the genuine interest of helping their employees with the rest of their life challenges.
It is true that in this case, doing, you’re doing well by doing good, right. Or something to that effect where, you know, if you build a culture where people feel appreciated and valued, you know, again, you’re going to attract more and maybe better talent. You’ll be able to be more selective. People will want to stay.
There’ll be more engaged and focused when they’re there. And you know, that’s the long-term sustainable way to build a great company. Now I have more sympathy for smaller organizations that might not have the slack resources and other things, right. And the short-term is, is, is always right there for them.
But you know, even small employers, I, you know, in the whole person workplace, I talked to leaders at multinational companies and a store literally with eight employees and everything in between. And, you know, there are solutions if you’re creative about it, Value employees that we can put things in place that make better workplaces to work for everybody, not just for the bosses, but a workplace that works for everybody.
So of the small companies that you’ve talked to, what have been some of them, or maybe one example of a creative idea where the employer, his employer has said, Hey, this is easier to implement, or this is a creative way to do it without blowing the bank open. Right. Okay. So one great example. So there’s this. There are two locations with natural food stores out in, like the Lake Tahoe area in California.
And this one employee was having trouble getting to work. I just didn’t have reliable transportation. So the boss was going to buy a new car, and it was going to trade in his old one and was going to get like a thousand bucks from the dealer for it instead. Okay. Maybe that’s not totally replicable but, but they gave it to this employee.
So now this employee had had reliable transportation. The way the person told me he was telling me the story is like 75 cents an hour for a year of this person working for me. And it’s, you know, in grocery and retail, turnover’s high. It’s like, you know, and now with this person, five years later still works there as an assistant manager is like, totally like the pay it forward person.
He’s been like telling people how great it is to work here because of the consideration his boss gives them. And, you know, ultimately the owner of the company is like, who wouldn’t buy that for a thousand dollars. So that’s a thousand dollars. And you know how I don’t think we should necessarily just give cars to our employees.
Right. That’s not what I’m saying, but I’m saying we could be more just more creative about it. When you’re a small company, you can get to know the people. And figure out solutions that work for each person bigger companies obviously can have the more widespread policy, you know, there’s one other, very small employer you know, a small convenience store in New Hampshire that during the pandemic, the employees just say, you know, instead of the tip jar for them, they rewrote it for the food bank.
So that, yeah, and the employees did it themselves, and these are hourly employees not making a lot of money. And the bosses saw this, and they were like, you know, what, what a wonderful idea. And I, that’s so wonderful of you. So they wound up doing a match for those tips every week, and they’ve continued to do it.
And they’ve bought something like over 25,000 meals or the equivalent of that for the food bank of central New Hampshire. And you know, like that’s a way to validate, right. And employee’s priority that might not even be particularly work-related right. So that’s just two examples from small employers.
And of course, the big employers can have like, you know, work from home and, you know, even, you know, stuff like that. Yeah. But I think that you tapped onto something as well, that that the employees will respond and respond more if there is a shared value. And that there’s a mission everybody has in common with the employees did something, and then the employer came behind and expanded it.
And the salary probably isn’t as big a deal as for the fact that, that everybody is doing something on one accord and feel like they’re part of the same team, because there was a response. Yeah, no, that’s an absolute. It’s validating, right. Something else about them besides just the fact that they work from this hour to this hour, right.
It validates their desire to give back to their community. It’s validating. Right. And so, they’re being recognized. They’re being seen, listened to, and you know what human beings, what whole person doesn’t want that. Right. Right. Right. And, you know, I find it very interesting that people are, are not saying money isn’t always, or salary increase.
It isn’t always something that’s going to cause when you’re, when you have a mission, your day goes faster, and your day becomes purposeful. And then you don’t mind investing as an employee into that mission because that’s a part of what you are, who you are anyway, as the whole person, as opposed to working for a larger company that doesn’t really care about what you all, you care about being the homeless or whether, you know. Maybe they do have a bigger mission, but it’s not your mission.
So it makes all the difference in the world.
Yeah. I think, well, a couple of things there, that one. You know, I think large companies, a lot of them do donation matching, and they give people paid time off to volunteer and things like that too. So like even within that space, the larger employees can, can do some of that.
Right. And listen, I’m obviously in the book. You, you know, you have to pay people a livable wage, right. Or else none of this really matters. That’s literally valuing your voice. Right. But beyond that, right, once people get to a certain level of pay, what you want them to do is not to like worry about how much money they’re making anymore. Then they can focus on the mission, focus on what’s important to them, or focus on what keeps them motivated and things like that.
So it’s important core, you know, financial stability and core financial benefits and, and, you know, employee benefits are vitally important, even if they’re not quite as sexy as you know, oh, we have ping pong tables and, you know, so there are things we associate with best employers. I think more important is making sure people will have a livable wage and enough time for life.
And then, if people have money and time, they can figure out solutions to their own work-life challenges. Right. Right. So, you know, I think fundamentally that’s a baseline thing, right? You know, all the, everything else beyond that, it goes beyond that. And then, I profile several companies here with the hourly employees.
We start them at $18 an hour. Nobody makes less than that. And that’s, as you know, more than double the minimum wage, you know, and you know, those who extend, you know you know, retirement plans and health insurance, even to part-time hourly workers or extend educational benefits or tuition reimbursement for hourly employees.
So you know, there are many different ways we can support all types of employees at all different levels.
Yeah. I feel even as an employee, and I have to look at it a little bit of employee because people are wondering how I find these jobs that that’s supposed to, where they are. So does it help?
And I talked a little bit. I think from the last hour that some employers actually do talk about the values. Like you go to bank America, YouTube channel, they talk about working with disabled employees. So is that a good way for the employee employers to start utilizing some of the new tools now to kind of broadcast and clarify their ultimate mission outside of the products and services they offer for profit.
And they’re trying to make a difference.
Absolutely. So first off, employers need to sincerely do the right thing and then communicate that they do the right thing. Right. And if they’re just talking about it, you know, there, there are plenty of employers I’m sure who talk a good game about being an employer of choice.
And we care about this and that who really doesn’t. But so I wouldn’t necessarily take, you know, and not to pick on the bank of America. I wouldn’t take their word for it. My research as a job seeker. Right. And see, you know, there’s the fortune lists and the working mother lists and the fairy God boss, and, you know I’m sure resources that, you know, you know, that I don’t even know. Still, you know, the reputation of employers and you know, now that we’re in a more interconnected world if I’m applying to a company for a job, I’m going to check out LinkedIn, do I know anyone in my network or somebody in my secondary network that works there, you know?
And then can I talk to them?
Right. So you want to do your research there. And then finally, I think if you’re interviewing at a new employer and especially now. You know, I would think those last 10, 15 minutes of the interview and really ask questions, like, how did your company take care of people during the pandemic for your work-at-home employees?
How did you make sure they weren’t overworked and working all night because there was no separation. How do you make sure people felt physically safe once you start returning them to the office? You know those types. And so if the person is stammering and gives you just very vague answers, that’s your answer.
But if they can with pride, talk about, yeah, this is what we did. We bought 35,000 laptops for our employees so that they can have work from home. We did weekly, you know, fitness, online thing, you know, like, you know, we gave people mental health days every year. Friday afternoon,
Candor. It’s candor. If I’m listening to someone talk about and say, we didn’t do so well, this is where we didn’t do well, what we plan to do well, there’ll be more, more temper buy-in, as opposed to saying that, you know, hearing them mumble and think that they did something when they really do doing anything.
And two people are going to look more. Now at who’s leading the team and who is the individuals leading the team then the, then the company at, at mass at large, because it’s going to be their experience with that person and how the lead more so than the mandates that they hear from the company actual mission.
Yeah. Some research shows the second most important relationship people have for their like work for their life. Satisfaction is their direct supervisor, their spouse first, and then the direct supervisor. And it has a big impact. So yeah, you’re not just evaluating a company, right? You want to make sure that when you meet your potential coworkers, meet your potential boss. There’s some sort of meeting of the minds of some sort of fit and mutual respect there.
I think that’s really, really important. And also, it’s more responsibility than I hope managers and leaders recognize and take on that. Like I can really not, you know, I could be a crappy one. Like being an okay boss, or it could be the kind of boss that helps my employees have a really good experience at work.
And then that spills over to the rest of their lives as well.
Sure. So in this book, at this particular time, knowing that the imbalance there is in the job market at this particular time, what would you say would be the biggest, most relevant takeaway right now from your book and people bringing them home selves and the employers trying to make room for people to do so?
Yeah, so I think that we went from a pretty high unemployment level to now, you know, relatively low, you know, the labor market dynamic has shifted. Right. So I think people who have options have more options than they have for the past few years. Right. So, you know, they should be really No, again, ask those questions, do that, do the research to see if you could find a place that doesn’t just pay you well and give you interesting work to do, but you know, also we’ll consider the rest of your life and you as a whole person.
So that’s one thing and, and we saw, you know, like lots of people, like it’s hard to work in a, in a kitchen, it’s hard to work on a construction site and, you know, they’re, you know, they’re starved for employees right now. Right? Because they haven’t, you know, maybe they’re starting to pay a little bit more.
But they haven’t really rethought the relationship between employer and employee. I mean, I remember I listened to some sports radio, so I’ve been hearing ads all the time for these trucking companies who are like, we’re looking for drivers, and we’re like, now you get health insurance day one. And you know, you know, all this extra pay and bonuses and sign off on it.
Like you could see that they’re starting to figure out that there’s more to You know, more to recruitment than, than there had been before. Right. And then from the job seeker point of view, you know, again at least for now you might have a little more choice. So be smart about that, you know, use that choice or, if your employer would rather state your employer, maybe talk to them about like, Hey, listen, I want to stay here long term.
Here’s a few things that would really help me do that. You know, maybe if you helped subsidize me getting, or you pay for me getting this professional certification, that would help me feel better, but staying here for the next two years, you know, or something like that. You know, I mean, I hate to make everything very, you know, negotiation, but, you know, right.
Employees have a little more leverage, which then than they had before. And either finding employers or renegotiating in terms of that’s one thing, the younger generations of job seekers, you know, they’re seeking out organizations that fit their values more so than prior generations did. And they’re making decisions that aren’t necessarily the same as prior generations, just maximizing money or career tracks.
And I think that’s much more healthy as long as you’re getting paid enough. Right. I think it’s, it’s, you know, that’s taken care of yourself in a more holistic kind of whole-person way, right?
Absolutely. Well, Scott, I appreciate you spending time with me as always is always great to talk to you.
And if I can just throw this up on the screen here and workplace, August 17th is the release date. If I’m not mistaken, is that correct? Yep. Yep. And I think, even though you, you tilt it more towards employees, employ employers and everyone in the workplace. Now, if you want to get an idea of what the future’s going to look like, this would be the book.
No, I look forward to reading it myself. So unless you have anything else to add, oh, I thank you so much for coming on.
Mark, it’s always a pleasure, my friend. And again, I’m so proud of this book and, thank you for helping me spread the word. I think it’s gonna help build better workplaces for everybody.