Business Unusual: Equity in the New Business Climate (Part 2)

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Welcome to the second edition of our equity talk with Katie Augsburger of Future Work Design for our Business Unusual series! Watch the video below or scroll down to read the full interview transcription!

Jill McKenna:

I am so delighted to be with my friend, Katie Augsburger, today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and I’m talking to Katie Augsburger with Future Work Design. Katie is a founding partner at Future Work, and she has over 15 years of experience and is an HR expert and thought leader in the HR space.

Jill McKenna:

Katie, I’m going to let you talk about what Future Work does.

Katie Augsburger:

Hey, Jill. Thanks for having me in my basement. Future Work has been founded by three other women. We focus on strategy, customer experience, employee experience, and we center equity in those conversations and help organizations really rethink how they caretake for their customers and for their employees.

Jill McKenna:

Cool. One question I wanted to ask you is, you had mentioned organizational strategy. Beyond the obvious, which is work from home right now, which everybody’s obviously moving to, what other organizational strategies are you seeing come into play right now with the changing landscape?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah, so I think, probably in January, everybody was working on their five-year vision and what is our strategy going to be for the new year, for the next three years? And by March, none of that seemed to matter, right? Like your strategy for a lot of organizations kind of got thrown out the window. And really, we shouldn’t let go of what we care about, what we value as an organization, but we should create some flexibility and some endurance and some resilience to change.

Katie Augsburger:

But what we thought was going to be really important earlier this year, is maybe not going to be as important going forward. Like, maybe we’re going to move to a shared desk space. That might not be a feasible thing, but what I am seeing is people starting to put a real focus in their strategy into equity. Focus on equity, focusing on how we create better health benefits. How do we create more robust time-off plans? How do we care for people’s mental health?

Katie Augsburger:

Those things aren’t often part of organizational strategy for a lot of organizations, but right now that’s really highlighted.

Jill McKenna:

To that point, I’m wondering if you can speak about leadership. I know you deal with a lot of leaders. Speaking to about how leadership can reshape performance reviews and performance expectations now to experience success and experience team success, and a shared win in this environment.

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. Thank you for that question, because I think what is interesting about this moment right now is two things are happening at once. One, we want to really be thoughtful and caretake for people who are having this really difficult human crisis experience that is unlike anything we have ever experienced in our lifetimes and even in our grandparents’ lifetimes, and in many generations.

Katie Augsburger:

So we want to caretake for that and we want to be thoughtful to people about… You know, their productivity is not going to be the same today as it was yesterday. At the same time, organizations are trying to keep their businesses afloat. They’re trying to make sure that their businesses are solvent, that they’re being good stewards of their resources, that everybody that’s onboard is doing important and good work because resources are really scarce right now.

Katie Augsburger:

So sometimes that duality can lock people up in indecision. Like how do I hold people accountable for their role while knowing that at home, they’ve got three little kids and a partner who’s also a nurse or a doctor? It can be very, very stressful.

Katie Augsburger:

So what I ask people to do is to rethink what productivity means in the organization, but to not stop holding people accountable for those roles, but to rethink about what accountability looks like, and to be really clear about what support you can provide as a manager.

Jill McKenna:

I’m sure you see so many different situations with leaders in different situations for their specific company. Are there ways that you see companies right now strategizing to go forward with an altered performance review idea or concept? How are they starting to map that now? How are you guiding them towards that?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. I have been moving organizations to have accountability conversations, as opposed to performance reviews. It’s really difficult to measure people’s performance in this moment. Because, to our point, before productivity is just not in the same space. So often the measures that we put at the beginning of the year may not hold right now. But a performance conversation about, “How can I support you in this moment? Where are your areas that you need extra guidance, or me as a manager, removing barriers? What support can you offer others in the organization?”

Katie Augsburger:

Those conversations might be more meaningful right now. When things start to come back on, and the lights come back on in your organization, and you’re back together, that is going to be a better time for these more meaningful, harder performance feedback conversations about where that person can grow and improve. But it’s going to be difficult to do right now because we’re measuring performance based on metrics that might not be reasonable in this environment.

Jill McKenna:

That makes sense. Is there anything else that you felt was very important in any recent meetings you’ve had or any recent discoveries you’ve had with companies? Things that they’ve encountered that they maybe didn’t expect to, or that’s new to them?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah, there’s a couple things. One, I’m having conversations with organizations that are having difficult choices to make about to retain employees, especially low performing employees, or not. I think that that is a choice an organization needs to be thoughtful about and make, because it’s important for that employee, and that’s important for the business to make that choice thoughtfully. But to know that like, that is okay. It is okay to still have those conversations about whether to retain employees even in this very difficult time.

Katie Augsburger:

And what I mean by that, I want to be really crystal clear what I mean by that, is that we want to guide our decision making with ethics all the time. And if you’re retaining employees who are absolutely not able to perform because they are not skilled in the role or that maybe they haven’t had the behaviors in the role for a long time, and now we’re all working from home and that’s only amplified, that is a reasonable time to have a conversation with that person.

Katie Augsburger:

However, if people are struggling because this is a difficult time and they’ve been a solid employee through their tenure, but this has highlighted new and different issues for them, and there is additional stress that you might not be aware of, that’s not a time for a termination conversation. That’s a time for a performance conversation. How can I support you? What do you need?

Katie Augsburger:

So you can still make tough decisions as an organization, but this is the time to be extra thoughtful, slow down your process, fact find that information, and see what can you offer to employees at their time of most need.

Jill McKenna:

Amazing. Thank you. That’s very thoughtful for right now, and what so many companies are experiencing and teams are experiencing. Thank you. You’re amazing. We have links to you on our website and in the comments section of our social media. You can get in touch with us to get in touch with Katie. You’re the best. Thank you so much.

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. Hey, Ruby! Love you all.

Jill McKenna:

Oh, thank you. We love you. Thank you, Katie.

Katie Augsburger:

Thank you.

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