The power has shifted from organizations to people. How do you meet the new expectations employees have? How do you retain your top performers? My guest today is El Lages, Chief People and Culture Officer at Flexera, and we talked about how she and her team are strategically and creatively planning for a flexible work environment, while also not forgetting the basics. I’m glad you’re here to listen in. And, then we’d love to hear from you. Leave a message in the comments about your lessons learned about working virtually or in a hybrid setup.
About the Guest:
Elizabeth Lages is a change agent. El, as she is known, has spent her time building operational excellence throughout the organization. She is known for increasing employee engagement, driving rigor in our sales processes, and building relationships with her optimism and warmth.
She is instrumental in making Flexera a “top workplace” through performance management, manager training, and continuous employee feedback. El has been with the company since 2004 in various sales and operations leadership roles before moving into organizational effectiveness in 2017.
Born and raised in New York City, El has a B.S. in communications at State University of New York.
About the Host: Amy L. Riley is an internationally renowned speaker, author and consultant. She has over 2 decades of experience developing leaders at all levels. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Deloitte and Barclays.
As a trusted leadership coach and consultant, Amy has worked with hundreds of leaders one-on-one, and thousands more as part of a group, to fully step into their leadership, create amazing teams and achieve extraordinary results.
Amy’s most popular keynote speeches are:
The Courage of a Leader: The Power of a Leadership Legacy
The Courage of a Leader: Create a Competitive Advantage with Sustainable, Results-Producing Cross-System Collaboration
The Courage of a Leader: Accelerate Trust with Your Team, Customers and Community
The Courage of a Leader: How to Build a Happy and Successful Hybrid Team
Her new book is a #1 international best-seller and is entitled, The Courage of a Leader: How to Inspire, Engage and Get Extraordinary Results.
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Teaser for next episode
Tune in on May 31 to hear from my next podcast guest, Erin Lavelle, Chief Financial Officer at WittKieffer, as we explore the power of authentic leadership to improve relationships, retention, and bottom-line results.
The power has shifted from employers to employees. How do you meet the new expectations employees have? How do you retain your top performers. My guest today is Elle lashes, Chief people and culture officer at flex Sarah. And we talked about how she and her team are strategically and creatively. So creatively, I really love their ideas, it makes me want to work out of a Flexera office, how they are strategically and creatively planning for a flexible work environment, while also not forgetting the basics, I'm glad you're here to listen in. And then we'd love to hear from you. Leave a message in the comments about your lessons learned about working virtually, or in a hybrid setup.Amy Riley:
Welcome to the courage of a leader podcast. This is where you hear real life stories of top leaders achieving extraordinary results. And you get practical advice and techniques, you can immediately apply for your own success. This is where you will get inspired, and take bold, courageous action. I am so glad you can join us. I'm your host, Amy Riley. Now, are you ready to step into the full power of your leadership and achieve the results you care about most? Let's ignite the courage of a leader.Amy Riley:
I know that you have been spearheading the efforts at Flexera for many, many, many months now to proactively strategically think about how does this work? When we're able to transition from 100% work at home to something flexible that would involve some in office time. Tell us what what was most important to you in the thinking around those plans?Elizabeth Lages:
I think it was, you know, one, it's employee engagement, right? It's having our team members still feeling a part of Flexera we have a great culture at Flexera. And pre pandemic, we had a very much an in office culture. So people who came really had strong connection, strong bonds, we have a healthy amount of tenured employees. You know, we have a lot actually in in December 2021, I think we had five or six people retire from Flexera, which is really unusual for a tech company. So for us, it's how do you maintain those human connections without that in person opportunity like we're used to, and balancing it with recognizing that our team members now have an entirely different expectation of how they work. They like working from home, they like the flexibility. But at the same time, what I think a lot of people don't realize, and we've done a lot of research on this and gotten a lot of great information from Gartner, you can read a lot of articles about it. A lot of people don't even realize that they're necessarily missing that human connection. And so for us, I mentioned earlier, right? It's a bias for flexibility. Right? So this is we're not going to corporately mandate that you come back to an office, that's not how we're going to play, we're going to ask, because if you live near an office, we're going to create an environment. You know, Jim and Michelle Banco who works with Jim Ryan, our CEO, we're talking about the sort of clubhouse atmosphere. So we create an environment that you want to come in a day or two, you want to engage with your peers, and use that time together as collaboration as mental wellness, just because you're able to connect with people. We're talking about creating spaces that do promote that mental wellness, like maybe having a library room where it's sort of Zen. So we're really rethinking the entire way of work. And again, with team members in mind, and what do they want from an engagement perspective? And I'm sure no surprise to me, your your ad nauseam great resignation is at play. Yeah. All right. I mean, I think it was November, you know, 4 million people exited the workforce. Many of you all of them even had other jobs. For various reasons. We've lost I think it's over 2 million women from the workforce. You know, our team members, they have a lot of options right now. And I think as an employer, it's important that you're thinking about what you Who's? What is it that people want from a company? What's going to fill them up? And at the same time, right, create a healthy, productive working environment so that the business can can grow? Because at the end of the day, we still are running a business. So how do you balance all of that? Right, right? Oh, soAmy Riley:
many important points you make right there. I mean, first of all, is accepting the new reality. And the new expectations and perceptions that employees have. They have worked from home, and they know the benefits of work from home that they want to continue to experience. So if we're going to bring them into the office, we've got to have a reason why I love this clubhouse atmosphere, mental wellness spaces, give them reasons to come into the workforce? Because I agree, yes, we have proven in many, many industries, that we can get the work done in the short term from home. And there's things that we miss out on not only as human beings and our sense of connection and our sense of belonging, but also when the work or the work needs collaboration, ideation with diverse perspectives, and that can best happen often when we're in the room together.Elizabeth Lages:
Yes, agree. Absolutely agree. And I think one of the challenges in this, you know, remote world, is when you are in an office environment, even if you were a remote employee, always, but you would come in once a month for a week at a time or something. There's something so simple about being able to pop your head over and say, Hey, me, I question about that. Now in this remote while I was like, Okay, well, let me get with Amy's schedule, because I need time with Amy even like we leverage teams, Microsoft Teams as a way to act with one another. But oftentimes people are in meetings, they may not be able to see the chat. And depending on the nature of the topic, you may want to have a dialogue over video, so you can look at each other. So so there is something to be said about the ease of being able to just have those quick conversations and being able to more without having to schedule more meetings. And, and I agree with what you said, I you know, you're right, people have gotten used to it. And we have proven that we can do this, right? There's no doubt around the world. Yep. What a lot of the data and the research is also showing, though, is that it is negatively impacting our team members, our employees mental well being. And for many, finding that balance of when does work switch off and light switches on. Right, that's the down sort of remote virtual work expectation, and trying to bridge that. And, you know, you and I have talked a lot about Flexera, and our management leadership sort of foundation, and the importance of ensuring that as leaders, we are spending that dedicated one on one time with our team members, and virtually Is it right to be connected. And I think a lot of the mental wellness comes into play with ensuring that you have that relationship established with your team members, and that you're giving them an opportunity, safe place if they need more. And a lot of what we started to do was really mandate to people like I need you to shut down, I need you to not log in to the point that we got feedback. And the team members were saying, Well, it's hard for me to shutdown because then I come in the next day, and I'm inundated with all of the things that I missed. So we actually incorporated Flexera days for missing, shut the company down. I mean, within reason, right, we had we did have support on staff, we of course, you know, we have those measures in playing for the people that need to be present on that given day, they were given the following, you know, day so that they were able to have that as well. And then we started doing, which we do once a quarter, no meeting days. So one Friday, every quarter, you know, meetings are scheduled because one of the other feedback that we received is in this virtual world is you know, I'm staring at people on a screen all day. And it is exhausting. Right, and then back to the earlier comment about creating this sort of clubhouse space and thinking and redesigning where we do have our office locations, creating what we're calling days of connection and to your earlier Point give people a reason to come in. Because there's a connection, you know, those will be days that we just have some fun. And, you know, we'll get together we'll collaborate, people will work. But really what we're going to do is just use it as an opportunity to, to connect truly. Yeah, yeah.Amy Riley:
I love this. Alice, why wanted to speak to you about this on the courage of a leader podcast? Yeah. I want to come into work at Flexera. Right, because your days of connection, you've got a clubhouse atmosphere. It's yeah, it's it. You have thought intentionally, strategically creatively about this, right? The no meeting days, the days of connection. Flexera days, everyone, we are talking to Elizabeth lodges who goes by L. And she is a change agent. And she has spent her time at Flexera, building operational excellence throughout the organization. She's known for increasing employee engagement, driving rigor in their sales processes and building relationships with her optimism and warmth. You've heard it already. She's instrumental in making Flexera a top workplace. I saw that designation again, this year, a terrific congratulations through performance management, manager training and continuous employee feedback. L has been with Flexera since 2004, in various sales and operations, leadership roles, before moving into the organizational effectiveness area in 2017. Thank you so much for being with me today. Oh,Elizabeth Lages:
it's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.Amy Riley:
Yeah. Let's talk more about the importance of this one on one time. Yes. Leaders with their employees. I mean, what do employees want most from their leaders in their organization? Attention. Exactly. So I love and this has been going on for years that Flexera tell us about the focus? Yeah. So it'sElizabeth Lages:
a great point, Amy, I think we underestimate sometimes the importance of just spending dedicated time with people. And oftentimes, not even necessarily talking about the work, right, we think about, we call them all threes, one on one, we leverage the fundamentals of Manager Tools. And you can visit manager tools.com. It's free, there's a lot of podcasts. And the premise of that one on one time is one you build and foster relationship with your team members, which is important for a basis of trust, right. And most, most team members cells, in addition to wanting the attention, right, what they want is feedback, know where they stand, they want to know how they're doing. And what those regular connection are, oh threes, one on ones do is one, they create that opportunity to connect over time you build that rapport and that relationship and hopefully that trust. And then that opens up the door for the opportunity to give feedback 95% of feedback you're giving is positive, you did a great job. Thank you for your work on x. But there's that 5%, whereas an opportunity to help someone further develop, right, and what can be done differently. And that is really amazingly a lot of people they want to know, right, because they aspire to next level to more. And so the one on one time helps really lead the way into having feedback and really helpful and I think healthy communication between a leader in a team member. Yeah.Amy Riley:
I like that you put 95% Next to the positive feedback bucket. I think that so many leaders when they think about needing to give feedback to their team members, they think I've got to give them that developmental critical feedback. We want to positively reinforce what is going well.Elizabeth Lages:
Absolutely. I mean, in emails, if someone's doing something really well, you want to encourage them to keep doing that. And oftentimes, it's having a positive impact on the business. And we take for granted, right that if people are doing what we've hired them to do, that they're good, because that's what we hired them to do. Yeah, we're all human. And again, going back to exactly what you said earlier, people like attention, and even people that don't love attention in a larger forum or format ishi eight knowing that what they're doing is having an impact and MCs do more of that. And it's really simple. And we do take it for granted. But yes, absolutely the majority of of feedback that that we should be giving is positive. Yeah,Amy Riley:
let people know specifically what they're doing that's working. Yes. And that fantastic, positive impact that it's having on you, their colleagues, the work, the clients.Elizabeth Lages:
And there's, there's a retention component to that as well, right. When when our team members feel like they are heard, and they understand what is expected of them on a day to day, and they believe that that leads to opportunity, right, we have a better chance of retaining those team members. And you know, Flexera is actively hiring right now. We have been, you know, suffering, like many companies around the world with the bottom group resignation, or attrition has definitely taken a hit. And we are doing a lot of self reflection on why should we be doing differently, right, which is, I think a lot. You mentioned earlier, some of the creative ways that my team is thinking about the new way of work and being flexible. Part of it is how do we retain our performers, our key players that we know, we don't want to lose in this competitive market? So I think there's just a lot of learning to be had in all facets of why it's so important to be connected to our team members.Amy Riley:
Yeah, yeah. We've already underscored the creativity that you're applying, giving people reasons to come into the office and accepting the new expectations that employees have. I'm also hearing in this, don't forget the basics. Leaders, check in with your employees have these one on ones? How are they doing? Personally? What do they need for themselves? What do they need for their work?Elizabeth Lages:
You know, I actually love that you said that, because what we found, and before we were really, for us having all threes, having those one on ones, that's mandatory? Okay, that is not optional. If you're a manager or leader of Flexera, that is an expectation, so much so that when we do our employee pull surveys twice a year, there is a very specific question that says, Is your manager having all threes with you every week? So like, we don't play around, but we're very upfront about it. And we talked about it in the interview process. So it's not like we're it's a big surprise. But it is amazing. Prior to us really leaning into this and saying, This is so important, that managers leaders, we need you to do this. You would hear of maybe, oh, maybe I'd meet with my manager once a month. And now imagine that in a completely virtual remote worlds. And an island.Amy Riley:
exactly. Exactly. And so it became even more thankfully, we were all this was already part of this was in our water supply. When the pandemic hit, and we moved into full remote working, you know, we had already established a culture of those connections every week with your manager. And it was even more important. And we then layered on additional expectations on meeting as a company meeting, you know, next level, but without that, for many people would have absolutely felt completely lost. Yeah,Amy Riley:
yeah. Now, obviously, you don't know any different because you had these o threes in place as a practice in your organization when COVID arrived. But gosh, what what kind of difference do you think that made? Having that already there as an expectation and having trust and relationships built to a good level?Elizabeth Lages:
is a great question. I think with the onset of the pandemic, there were so many things that we were all trying to navigate. And quite candidly, you know, I'll speak myself, I think, you know, we got some things wrong, right, in terms of, did we connect enough or not enough? I think we all learned a lot along the way. Without having that already established, it would have been an additional hurdle for us to figure out, how do we conquer that right. So thankfully, that was already just part of how we roll. Right. And so that was one less thing I guess, for us to worry about, with all the other things that we needed to figure out. How do we support parents? How do we ensure our Bangalore team has laptops when they were working off of desktops? You know, how do we think about flexibility because people are trying to be Teachers and at the same time, you know, need the flexibility with their jobs. So there were so many things that we were all trying to overcome. For us that connection was one thing we did not have to keep on our, our list of things to worry about. So I think that was a big, big help for us. Yeah.Amy Riley:
Yeah. And where so many others were struggling? Yeah, you know, I got a lot of questions at the beginning of the pandemic, about how do we lead differently in a remote remote world? And I know the the question is complex, and it has layers, but a part of me always wanted to say, just like he always did, I can connect with people find out how they're doing, find out what they need.Elizabeth Lages:
Yeah, you know what, Amy? That's a great point. So one of the things that we talk about when we talk about our oh three is our one on ones is that 30 minute time is meant to be broken up where the first 10 minutes is really for your team member to talk about whatever they want to talk about. Nice, right? So if I if if Jim right, our CEO and I are on my own three and I want to talk about my english bulldog, Penelope for 10 minutes. Jen listens. And we talk about Penelope. And to your point, that's exactly it. Right. It's leading is yes, we got to talk about the work yes, we have to talk about the deliverables and the expectations. But it's also especially more so than ever, during the pandemic, that human connection really was such an important factor because none of us knew what was in store as the days ticked by. Many were isolated. And as I mentioned earlier, parents, also people caring for elders, there was so much happening at the same time. So being able to have that oh three and not just diving right into, okay, what's going on with, you know, this, and just having a minute to be people and have a conversation. I also think it's it was a bit of a reprise.Amy Riley:
Nice, nice. I know we are talking about flexible workplace. Right. And and everyone listening has had their experience throughout the pandemic of either being essential workers and needing to get everybody back to work in the workplace, or figuring out how to work from home and now might be moving to some kind of hybrid or flexible model. So be sure to put your your comments below about how how is that working for you? What are you learning from this experience? Because we are, we're all learning as we go on this one, that he really appreciate some of the things that you have brought up out, we've got to accept that there's new expectations out there. employees want the flexibility. And while they want some flexible time to be at home, they also need support in that environment. Right. So love the focus on the mental wellness spaces, and thinking about when does the work turn on and off? Yes, it's flexible, but there needs to be times that were off? And how do we help them with protocols are practices or Flexera days or no meeting days? In order to make that happen? Right, and probably something that should be talked about in those one on ones with leaders and employees? What what what does your workday look like? When are you on? When are you off? That's right, right. I'm not gonna I'm not gonna ping you then. Yeah, no, forget the basics. Employees just want some some attention. Thank you l for being with me today. This is a fantastic conversation, and kudos to your intentionality. And your proactive planning. I know that you have been looking at this for three quarters of a year now planning for how is moving to a flexible work environment going to work for you.Elizabeth Lages:
Yep. And thank you, me, thank you so much. And I think I'm Flexera has been super supportive, and really fortunate that I have such a strong team, that between all of us, this is what we wake up and worry about. And we created a global health and safety team as well. Yeah, we pulled in other functions, so that we made sure we had a lens from finance and legal and operations. And so together that team has been really dynamite in helping us define go forward. So you know, I think that's the other thing too is if nothing else, the pandemic taught us to lean on each other and lean on, on perhaps people that you wouldn't normally work with in a given day. But are there opportunities to learn from one another? So thank you so much for having me. I always love our conversations because we always end up talking about, like, you know, 10 great things. And I'm curious and would love to hear what's working for some of your listeners. I always love learning from what other people are doing well and excited to see some of the feedback that you get. So that Flexera can continue to evolve.Amy Riley:
Yeah, me as well. Let's keep the dialogue going around this and you know, talking about 10 great things come out of our conversations you just threw in another important one. Having that diversity of perspective on this, right? Please, no one out there be doing this planning in a bubble. Talk to all those around you, because we've got to hear everyone's experience and get everyone's best ideas on this. Thanks, everyone, for listening.