What It Takes To Keep Employees with Joey Coleman

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author, consultant and speaker Joey Coleman on what it takes to keep employees and how leadership needs to change to make it happen.

A few reasons why she is awesome  —  he is a professional speaker, workshop leader, consultant and the author of a couple of Wall St Journal best-selling books with his latest  – Never Lose An Employee Again – The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention. For more than 20 years, he’s been the Chief Experience Composer for Design Sympathy, an experience branding firm helping shape customer and employee interactions to create raving fans and zealous advocates. He’s helped organizations like Zappos, Whirlpool, NASA, the World Bank and too many more to name.

Connect with, and learn more about Joey on his…



  • Redefining employee retention and opportunity at work
  • Individualized approach to employee experience
  • Role of mentoring in modern workplaces
  • Evolving workforce dynamics and adapting to new realities
  • The value of acknowledgement and appreciation
  • Simple, effective techniques for employee engagement

“Everyone is responsible for employee experience. Everyone’s involved in creating the types of touchpoints and interactions and magical moments that contribute to whether or not somebody likes to come to work, whether they’re engaged, and whether they stay.”

Joey Coleman


Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Joey Coleman, and here is why he is awesome! I’m gonna have to take a big breath for this one. He is a professional speaker, workshop leader, and consultant. Happens to be an author of a couple of Wall Street Journal best selling books. Latest of keen interest to our conversation today, Never Lose an Employee Again, The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention.

For more than 20 years, he’s a Chief Experience Composer for Design Sympathy and experience branding firm, helping shape customer and employee interactions in order to create raving fans and zealous advocates helped organizations like Zappos, Whirlpool, NASA. I’m going to, I could just keep going on and on and on.

But the real important thing is he’s here. He’s going to talk to us today. Hi, Joey.

Joey Coleman: Russel, I am thrilled to be here. Thanks so much for having me on the show. Thanks to everybody who’s joining in, listening or watching. Super excited for our conversation. We were saying before, I can’t believe we haven’t met in person or connected before now because we’ve been swimming in the same rivers and streams for many, many years now.

So it’s an honor to be here. Thanks for having me.

Russel Lolacher: Thank you so much. Yeah, I was, I’ve talked to Dan Gingiss, your former co host of podcasting a few times and I’m like, yeah, Joey, why have we not? But happy to have you here and rectified that problem.

Joey Coleman: I appreciate that, and I’ll try to be half as good as Dan Gingiss. If I can live up to that, I feel like I’ll be, you know, just doing fabulously.

Russel Lolacher: That’s my morning mantra every morning. I hope I’m just half as good as Dan Gingiss.

Joey Coleman: Half as good as Dan Gingiss is a good place to be.

Russel Lolacher: If only we could have the hair of Dan Gingas.

Joey Coleman: Exactly! Exactly! He, you know, He does have a certain shine to him that just is, is brilliant. Oh, I’m sorry, we, I, I meant his personality, not his head.

Russel Lolacher: That’s what I was picking up. That was, I

Joey Coleman: Of course, of course.

Russel Lolacher: I gotta, you’re not off the hook here, Joey. I’ve got a question, I ask all of my guests,. What’s your best or worst employee experience?

Joey Coleman: Well, because I know we’re on a podcast, and because I know that drama sells these days, I’m gonna go ahead and lean into worse. I’ve had some great places that I work, but let’s just put it this way. I once gave my two weeks notice, to my direct manager, who then shared that with his boss, who then shared that with his boss.

And the two tiers up person invited me into their office. And said, we need you to stay. It’s Q4. We’re trying to hit our sales numbers. And I said, I appreciate that. I’ve already hit my sales numbers for Q4. So I don’t feel like I’m leaving you in the lurch. And I’m giving you two weeks notice. To which this person, who at the time was very close to giving birth, actually got up on top of the desk and started screaming at me that my life and my career was over because I would dare to leave an organization in the lurch in Q4. I think there were some other things going on, and I say that now from a place of empathy, but it was not the HR friendly conversation that I think the Human Resources Department would have been excited about.

Long story short, it all sorted itself out. But yes, that was definitely a memorable and remarkable day in my career.

Russel Lolacher: How do you walk outta that room, Joey? Like, what do you like… my jaw, pick it up, walk.

Joey Coleman: I say this from a place of, of love and respect. I was really good friends with her boss’s boss.

Russel Lolacher: Okay.

Joey Coleman: And I walked out of her office and I walked down a couple hallways to the office of her boss’s boss and I said I’m gonna bring you up to speed on something so that you hear it from me before you hear it from anyone else. He was needless to say quite concerned and was like what is actually happening?

I said, I don’t know But I’m gonna make the handoff smooth. I’m gonna try to leave in good stead and it’s just not for me anymore. It’s clear. Mind you I had joined a team with ten people ten months earlier There were only two left. That gives you an idea of how they were approaching retention and employee experience.

So, let’s just say it was not a surprise to anyone in the organization, other than the person who was going to get in trouble for losing yet another team member.

Russel Lolacher: Yes, but I hope that person is talked to about losing so many people. Because I mean, there’s organizations that are dropping people left and right and they’re like, oh, they’re just going to new opportunities. Wait a second. There is a common denominator here, and it happens to be a particular person in your organization.

And yet a lot of organizations are like, gloss over it, giving excuses, but they don’t do anything about.

Joey Coleman: They really do, and I think part of the reason for that, Russel, is historically, it was still poor behavior, but you could get away with it a little bit. I mean, it’s been an employer’s market for many, many years. We’ve now reached this point where it is an employee’s market. And I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.

I would posit at least in the next decade or more. And so as a result, I think a lot of organizations are going to have to undo their bad behavior from previous generations in terms of how they treat their people.

Russel Lolacher: I want to backtrack just a moment here because, I always find it really interesting to talk to people that started a lot of their work in the digital space in customer service, customer experience, customer journey, which is where I started as well. Now, you and I would not be talking about employee retention five, six years ago. It would be just about the customer, the customer, customer equals money.

So what’s changed? Because now you’re out with this great book. You have a previous great book, Never Lose A Customer Again. Now you’ve shifted to employee. I pivoted in 2018. I did a Google search. There were 20 times the amount of customer books than there were employee experience books. So there’s obviously been a shift. What happened?

Joey Coleman: I think a couple of things happened, Russel. I mean, number one, you and I, and I say this respectfully, I think both knew when we were working more predominantly in customer experience, that employee experience was just as important. You can’t have a remarkable customer experience if you don’t have great employees to deliver that experience.

So I had been in this space about five minutes before I realized that.

What I also realized is that in most organizations, customer experience is the purview of operations, customer support, customer success, customer service, account management, maybe even marketing and sales. If you’re a really forward thinking organization, whereas employee experience until I’d say very, very recently, and I’m going to define recently as the last year or two, has been predominantly the responsibility of the people department, the human resources department, whatever department is responsible for those type of administrative activities. And whereas I think for 20 plus, 30 plus years, there have been speakers and authors and consultants and folks like you and me pounding the drum of everyone’s in customer experience, everyone’s in customer service, customer experience.

I think that similar message has been put out there as far as, everyone is responsible for employee experience. Everyone’s involved in creating the types of touchpoints and interactions and magical moments that contribute to whether or not somebody likes to come to work, whether they’re engaged, and whether they stay.

And so, like you, I think we’re at the forefront of this conversation, in the same way if we were to roll back to kind of the Joseph Pine days of, hey, customer experience is relevant. I think we’re just at the beginning of the conversation for the relevance and importance of employee experience.

Russel Lolacher: Well, you talk about that it fell to this particular department, Human Resources. They are in charge of all things employee experience, employee engagement, labor relations. That certainly seems to be changing as well.

I’ve talked to the Director of People and Culture at UC Berkeley not too long ago. They’re trying to do this whole shift away from the whole concept. How has it been transitioning in your research? For that organization to grow within the culture of the organization?

Joey Coleman: Well, I would say first and foremost, I’ve noticed a change in nomenclature. Like let’s stop and think about the fact that for decades it was HR or HR if you’re from across the pond or Human Resources. And then we had some folks that started to say, well, no, it’s more like human relations. It’s not stop treating the people like a resource, it’s human relations. Then you had people coming on the scene saying, no, it’s about people because that makes it universal. That makes it less judgmental. That sees these people less as an asset and more as part of the team. And then we added what I’m hearing a lot of now is P&C, people and culture. Now, the challenge I have with P&C is it implies that they’re two separate things, right?

I think your people are your culture. Your culture is your people, but your culture is also your process. Your culture is your office. Your culture is your habits and your behaviors. So it’s a lot of things, but I also think culture ended up getting overused. So if we’re going to end up somewhere, I like to think of them as teammates. Who’s on your team, who are your fellow teammates, and they’re all part of the people department. Those are my preferred, if you will, words to describe the space that we’re in.

Russel Lolacher: Overused words in the workplace, Joey? Go on. Lies!

Joey Coleman: It’s a travesty.

Russel Lolacher: So maybe we should… yeah, I mean, one of the biggest things I’ve always had a challenge with, especially having conversations with leaders is using definitions. Because we use words all the time, but we don’t define any of them. And I’m talking like leadership, innovation… but we have this success and employee retention being another.

What is employee retention? Because that’s, that’s what we’re really digging into today. Is it keeping an employee from birth to death when they apply? Or is it, we got them for five years, so we’re considered retaining them. How, how have you seen it best defined?

Joey Coleman: Well, I think there’s the way it’s been defined historically and the way it needs to be defined going forward. I think historically it was defined as what I’ll paraphrase as the gold watch. You started working somewhere, you’d work there until you retired and you’d earn the gold watch. Now. The practical reality of this is most of the shift that occurred from that occurred because of employer behavior, not employee behavior.

Employers decided, let’s raid pension funds. Employers decided, hey, at 64, you’re more expensive than to hire someone at 24. We’re going to fire you and hire two 24 year olds at the same salary we were paying the 64 year old and call it a day. So they kind of created this ‘we’re not loyal to you, but we expect you to be loyal to us’ mentality.

And I say they, meaning many different organizations around the planet. I think what is happening now is we are seeing employees being treated differently. And, I would pause it, and it’s why I like the team analogy. And forgive me for the sports analogy, everybody listening. But it’s the, it’s the fastest way to get my point across, so indulge me if you would.

If you are a college coach in any sport, and you recruit a high school player to come to your college, setting aside discussions of name, image, and likeness, and NIL, and whether we should be paying college athletes, just for a second, they’re kind of like an employee. And if you recruit someone to come to your college to be on your team,

best, they’re going to be there for three years.

Or, excuse me, at best they’re going to be there for five or six years. If they’re really good, they’re going to be gone in three. And I think that’s how more employers need to think. They need to think about assembling a team to achieve fixed goals that are shorter term rather than longer term. And I’ll define shorter term as one to four years.

And then realize that that team that they’ve assembled of rock star, all star, amazing players, most likely is going to have some transition and some shifting, and that’s okay. We don’t look at dynasty sports programs and say, ‘well, they don’t have the same players they had 20 years ago.’ No, we look at them and say, ‘wow, how have they been able to continue to succeed year after year when their roster, the people that they’re fielding for the game, have shifted?’

I think there’s a lot that business leaders could learn from those use cases.

Russel Lolacher: So let’s, let’s continue your metaphor, Joey. So looking at those teams, they’re leaving, they are leaving and looking at this going, I have other opportunities. I’m jumping ship. What is causing employees to even be empowered to feel like they can get out of there and employers just going, how can we keep them?

Joey Coleman: Oh, I think there’s a couple things at play here, Russel. Number one, COVID comes along and changes the world of work globally across every industry in a matter of weeks. What COVID did is it eliminated the excuse that you need to have geographic proximity as an employee in a way that had never happened in the course of human history, and it happened everywhere on the planet at the same time.

Some people say to me, I would posit it’s the biggest change to the workplace, in the history of work. Now, some people would say, well, Joey, what about electricity? Folks, electricity still isn’t evenly distributed globally. Well, what about the industrial revolution? There’s plenty of places that the industrial revolution hasn’t gotten to, you know, what’s gotten everywhere?

The idea of remote work, the idea of you being able to recruit the top talent who doesn’t live within 30 miles of your headquarters. So I think that’s the big change that completely. Altered the landscape when we add on top of that a number of factors demographics, immigration, just kind of global population concerns aging populations, the idea that, you know, many people are because in the countries they live in, there aren’t as many networks for familial care, whether that’s child care or elder care… we’ve got a workplace that now has fewer workers than we actually need, and that’s global. And so when we combine these things, I think we’ve created a scenario where if I’m working for you, Russel, and I’m not happy, as soon as I raise a flag and say, I want to go somewhere else, there’s almost immediately a dozen places that I could go to. And I think that’s how this has changed.

Russel Lolacher: Is it just opportunity that is driving people into other organizations, the ones that provide those remote work, or is there more to it? I mean, we always hear that people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad leaders. And I’ve seen enough stats to go, actually, that’s not 100 percent true either.

So what surprised you?

Joey Coleman: Very. A couple of things surprise me. I, I don’t, I think it is opportunity, but I think we want to come back to the beginning of our conversation of how do we define opportunity. So it’s career opportunity. It’s flex work opportunity. It’s experience opportunity. It’s travel opportunity. It’s skill set acquisition opportunity.

It’s types of people that you could work with opportunity. It’s scratching an itch that you’ve got an interest in a different area or a different industry opportunity. It’s all of those things. And, it might be none of those things. And this is the challenge when dealing with humans. Organizations want to make everything as systemic as possible.

I understand. That’s how we achieve scale faster and easier. But when dealing with humans, trying to say that all humans alike is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t work. And so, the reason you might leave might be the exact same reason I’m gonna stay.

And so how do we navigate that as an organization? Well, we focus on the people and we stop thinking about what one policy or what rule rules them all, and instead say, how can we create individual dynamic relationships? Oh, I don’t know. In the same way we do in our personal lives all the time. How can we do that in the workplace? And I think it’s easier said than done, but it does require work.

Russel Lolacher: I love that you said that. I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t understand why it’s different once you fire up your computer or walk through a door that suddenly trust, consistency become these new weird concepts in a world of work. That is how you made friends in the normal world. And yet it’s supposed to be this special weird thing. I’m so glad you highlighted that.

Joey Coleman: Well, and I think forgive me. I think a lot of businesses help created that, hey, it’s a different model by saying things like, Oh, it’s not personal. It’s business. No, no, no. Persons were still involved. Okay. I still feel emotionally hurt from the thing you just did. The thing you just I’m still human, even though I’m at work.

What amazes me, Russel, is for many, many years, we had employers that thought nothing of asking their employee to answer a couple of emails in the evening. Stay late. Fly out on Sunday for a meeting on Monday. You know, dip into their weekend time. Forgo vacation. Be available. We thought nothing of business creeping into personal.

But the second we have somebody say, I want to work from home, we’re like, I bet they’re going to do laundry. I bet they’re going to be watching TV. Going to have Netflix on in the background. It’s like, even if they did, why do you care? If the work is getting done, if the productivity is still there, if the metrics that we have set out by which we are going to evaluate someone’s worth, their value, their impact, their contribution in our organization, as long as they’re hitting those metrics, why do you care when they’re doing it, where they’re doing it, or how they’re doing it, as long as they’re doing it ethically and, you know, in a way that’s in alignment and comportment with the organization’s overall goals and values?

I don’t care if you, you know, I’ve got folks on my team. I’m like, you want to do all your work between midnight and 5 a. m.? Have at. That’s great. That’s frankly when I do a lot of my work. Okay, but we, I think we have the opportunity to release some of these constrictions around how we define work and productivity and expectation.

Russel Lolacher: That leads me to another question. I’m kind of curious to get your opinion on which is proximity bias. So there is always the idea that proximity bias for those who may not know proximity bias. It’s those that are in more.. That are more present around leadership executive will get the opportunities, the ones that are closest to their office, the ones that walk by in the hallway, obviously, usually very physical.

So in the idea of employee retention and this new world of remote work, proximity bias pisses me off, to be completely blunt, because it doesn’t account for diversity, it doesn’t account for economics. How are you feeling like it’s, it’s, is it gone or is it something that’s still going to be a problem?

Joey Coleman: Well, I mean, the real kicker is Russel, I don’t know that it ever accounted for diversity or economics. And therein lies the rub. But now we’re more aware of it. I don’t think it’s enough to just say ‘well now everybody’s working from home and it’ll all sort itself out just fine.’ No. Because even people’s homes are different.

Their opportunities are different. I mean, I’ve got two young boys. You might hear them in the background while I’m recording. That’s the practical reality of where I work from. But should that be a strike against me? Or should that be in the plus column is something good, because maybe because I am home, I can have more connection with my kids, more connection with my wife, I have more stability at home, makes me a more stable worker.

These things, you know, again, they’re not simple, and they’re multifaceted, and they’re layered. Where I think we need to spend some time thinking about as a species, right, not as corporations, as a species, is historically the way that our species propagated, especially let’s say in the last 50 years, is we met our partner, spouse, significant other at school, at church, or our religious institution, or at work. We have more people doing school online than ever before, and it’s only increasing. We are seeing a decline in involvement in houses of prayer and worship and religious organizations that in many ways is unprecedented in modern history. And now we don’t have offices, and everybody’s on the computer. The bigger concern I think we should be talking about is not, oh, what about the culture of our company?

I think the organizations need to be talking about what is the future of young people in our society if they don’t have the opportunity to build connection, build relationship, find partners with in person interaction, and everything becomes swipe left, swipe right. I, I just think there, there are layers of challenges to that.

Russel Lolacher: I completely agree. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon, considering a lot of leadership is still like, but this is not how I became successful, so it’s not the way that I want to run my organization. I’m like,

Joey Coleman: Russel, it’s so true, and that’s what a lot of the return to work movement is about. Well, I, when I was coming up, I had to work in a cubicle. I had to work 30 hours a day. I had to do, do, do. I get that it’s not the same world you came up in. But the, when you were coming up and you had, oh, I don’t know, the internet and mobile phones. It didn’t work for your boss’s boss to say, but back in my day, we had to use rotary phones or we used to write letters or what’s this internet thing? This is the way. technology evolves. This is the way work evolves. This is the way our species evolves. And we have two choices. We can either go with it and try to be as thoughtful and as conscientious as possible or bury our heads in the sand and say, don’t worry, it’s going to swing back to the way it was.

Just you wait and see, whippersnappers. And it’s like, that’s not going to happen. I’m sorry.

Russel Lolacher: I want to look at this holistically for a moment. Just take a step back because employee journey is always a thing I find really, really interesting because anytime organizations bring it up, it’s piecemeal. We talk about onboarding. Or, Oh, Hey, we should do an exit interview. Do we do exit…? Stay interviews? I’ve never, Oh, I’ve never even heard of those. Yeah. We should totally do one of those every two years and forget recruiting. So there’s no idea for most organizations to understand to look at as a holistic promise that we make on onboarding that we are to be fulfilling till they leave the organization.

How is employee retention? A piece of that as a part of the journey that employees are going for, regardless of if it’s that four or five years you were talking about.?

Joey Coleman: Well, Russel, I would posit, and the research supports my hypothesis, that employee retention begins before you even have a job offer. In my book, I outline eight phases of an employee journey that start with when you first think I might like to work there. You might not even know if they have any open positions.

Okay? You can either come through the path of that’s the organization I want to work for, or you see a job listing or a posting and you’re like, Ooh, that position feels like a good fit. Let me learn more about that organization. But most likely you’re coming down one of those two paths. That’s when the conversation about engagement, retention starts.

When does it end? Well, if we look at boomerang employees, those are employees who have worked somewhere, they leave and go somewhere else, and then they come back to the organization. Retention never ends. Ideally. Because it’s also the case that the eight phases that I talk in my book, the last phase is the advocate phase.

You can have advocates that aren’t on payroll. If I were to ask you, Russel, where is the best place you’ve ever worked? Not counting where you work now. I imagine a name comes to mind. And if I was a young person coming up or if I had a certain set of skills or a certain place in my career evolution that you thought I’d be a good fit, my hallucination is you would say, Joey, you should look at going to work here.

It was amazing. They’re great at building skill sets. They’re great at helping you have the first job. They’re great at getting you from the over the hump of being a tactician to being a manager. They’re great at helping you be more strategic. All the smartest people I ever worked with worked at this organization.

Any number of descriptions you might use to describe a place of work could apply to an employee at a different part in their career journey then you are. And that doesn’t mean the place you used to work is bad, it just means you outgrew that place

Russel Lolacher: But how can we get there, Joey? If there’s still such a disconnect between what executive thinks and what employees know, I can’t tell you how many surveys I’ve seen over the last two years that say executive 89 percent think this and employees are like 16 percent for us.

And it doesn’t matter. This is happening across the board. And for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be closing. So how do we mind the gap if we’re trying to keep our employees but don’t want to prioritize this differential?

Joey Coleman: Well the C-suite disconnect or lack of connection to the front line is not something new. This is existed in almost every organization since the beginning of the time. How can we address that? Well a couple ways number one. We’re gonna have C-suite attrition. It’s coming. It comes every year and with the graying of our workforce, you know, and folks moving towards retirement, especially the baby boomers.

Now we’re seeing a huge turnover in the workplace that we really haven’t experienced in decades, if ever. So I think some of it is going to happen naturally. Number two, the organizations that don’t pay attention to this, aren’t going to be able to retain employees. That are further down the chain, and as a result, they’re going to go out of business because you know what the senior partners and the more senior executives who’ve been there forever haven’t done in a long time, the scut work that a lot of the entry level employees are doing. Now, some of them would say to me, Well, Joey, we’re going to have AI do it. Great. Good luck with that. You get back to me. When you understand what a I actually is and stop thinking of it is one thing and calling it AIs because it’s plural and there are many, then I’ll be happy to have a conversation with you about AI. But until then, let’s stop pretending to use words that we don’t really understand what they mean.

I think what the opportunity is is for senior leaders to think differently about how in touch with reality they are. Two quick stories. So, number one, I had somebody joined my team recently, and they came on as an independent contractor, and they were working part time, and then they shared with me that they were interested in making the move to full time.

What’s really fascinating is I was about to share with them that I was interested in exploring a full time conversation. Now, as an employer, I was like, Oh, the stars have aligned. This is magical. I want this. You want this. This is going to be beautiful. But all my research and putting together Never Lose an Employee Again suddenly came screaming back from the back of my brain to the front of my brain.

And I said, absolutely, but let me ask a clarifying question. What do you mean by full time employment? How do you define full time? And this employee, who is, I’ll just keep it round, between the ages of 20 and 30 said, oh, I was thinking 35 hours a week.

Now, in my world, Russel, when I was 20 to 30 years old, my definition of full time was 70 hours a week. Okay? I’m not saying I was right! Okay, let me be abundantly clear, and the choices I was making were foolish and ridiculous and probably spoke more to the fact that I was coming up in like large law firm environments and consulting environments where that was the norm.

But in that moment, I had two choices, be frustrated at the 35 hours a week, or recognize that this is the new reality and say, am I caught up in the, well, when I was coming up, do, do, do, instead of saying, this employee’s doing a remarkable job, part time at 10 hours a week? What would life be like if I had 35 hours a week? It’d be more than 3x better, and it is, and it has been. Second observation I’ll make, I had the pleasure of attending an event called MMT a few weeks ago, run by my good friend Jason Gaynard, fantastic event, and one of the guest speakers was George Ravling. George Ravling is famous for a couple of things. He was one of the coaches of the Dream Team at the Olympics. He is a collegiate basketball coach. He’s been absolutely just incredible. He’s the guy who’s responsible for Michael Jordan signing with Nike. If you watch the movie AIR, he’s in the movie and Michael came out afterwards and said, Hey, with all due respect to Sonny, I signed with Nike, not because of Sonny, the character played by Matt Damon, I signed because of George.

Okay. This guy’s been there, done that, got the t shirt, not to mention he also is the owner of the I Have a Dream speech because he was providing security for Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the day of the I Have a Dream speech. And as Dr. King walked off, young George Raveling said, Dr. King, could I have your speech? And he handed him the original speech with his handwritten notes. Okay. This guy has lived it all. Like he’s, he’s had an amazing life. He’s 86 years old. And he shared something that I’d never heard of from the stage. He shared many things I’d never heard of. But one of the things he shared related to the workplace is he I have my young mentors. Young mentors?

We often think of mentors as somebody who’s older than us. Someone who’s been there, done that, got the t shirt. Someone who’s accomplished the things in life we hope to He said, no, I appreciate that. He said, I have young mentors. People in their 20s that understand technology better than I do. People in their teens that are digital natives that understand this remote world much better than I’ve ever understood it. And in that moment, I realized and wondered how many senior executives have young mentors in their organization. I’d be willing to bet very few.

Russel Lolacher: Yeah, yeah, I’ve always loved that concept. I’ve never seen it in practice. Um, I’ve heard about it, but it just, it’s this mythical unicorn thing where it’s sort of like, does it really exist? Does it, is it a, is it a once upon a time story we’re going to have here?

Joey Coleman: Totally. Well, George Raveling has it. I I’ve, I have met a unicorn now. I have met someone and one of his young mentors was in the audience.

And what was beautiful is he had this young man stand up and he acknowledged him with a round of applause in this whole audience and said, I learned from you. And I’m thinking to myself, this is a man who I shared some of his accolades.

I mean, this guy’s an amazingly accomplished and humble and remarkable human. And here he’s on stage saying, clap for my young mentor. He’s the one that’s keeping me young and keeping me focused and getting me learning andtrying new things. I thought, Oh, I need more young mentors.

Russel Lolacher: I’m hearing investment, Joey. I’m hearing investing and seeing the value, regardless of generation, regardless of diversity, inclusivity, equality, that we should be investing each other as human beings. How novel. But that’s one of the missing pieces. And I’ve heard you talk about that one of the key pieces for retention is planning career paths. Investing in our employees to let them know that we’re thinking beyond them as a cog in a wheel today, but them as being a part of something two, three, four years down the road. But most people are just thinking about, well, you did great last month. Yeah, we’ll keep, we’ll talk again next year.

I love that being a piece that I think we need to invest in more.

Joey Coleman: Russel, couldn’t agree more. I will tell you one of the most fascinating pieces of research I came across when writing the book was some work done by the Work Institute. Now if you look at the research that’s been done on why employees quit, why people leave, most of the research is based on sample sets of 300 to 500 respondents.

Now if you know about anything about statistics, that’s not a healthy sample set. We need to do better. Work Institute did some research where they did exit interviews with 234, 000 exiting employees across 17 different industries, a variety of different companies, and they were the third party, which, if you know anything about exit interviews, the third party gets more honest answers than the employer gets, and they did all this research, and the number one reason if I were to ask most CEOs, well, why did that person quit?

Why are you losing team members? They say, Oh, well, they’re getting more money somewhere else. They’re getting a better paycheck across the street. That’s true, according to the research. 9 percent of the time. 9 percent of the time, the employee leaves for more money. Now, while some people might see that as confirmation of the statement they just made earlier, I saw it as a real opportunity to get curious about the 91 percent of people that leave for some reason other than money.

And when we looked at that, 23 percent left for a single reason. So two and a half times the number that left for money left because they didn’t see a clear career path forward at the organization they were at. They couldn’t see what their next job was if they continued to perform well at that company.

And no one in that organization was helping them to see it. No one in that organization seemed committed to guiding them to that role. And they realized, I need to take ownership of my own career. And move somewhere else if I want to advance. Now, what’s interesting about that philosophy is that philosophy mirrors many senior executives.

Well, no one showed me my career coming up. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I figured it out. I did it myself. Okay.

But shouldn’t we try to be better? If we know that it didn’t work that well for us and we had to have a boatload of trial and error, why not make it better for the next generation of workers and say, Hey, Russel, you’ve been in this job for about a year now. You’ve been working in the call center.

Your call center scores are fantastic. We need to let you know a couple things, because you’re great at resolving calls and, you know, just serving our customers. There’s a couple of different paths for somebody with your skill sets. You could continue to be a call center agent, and we have this type of opportunity to promote you and give you pay raises, etc., etc. You could also go on to our manager path, where you become a manager in the call center, teaching other people and managing them. You could also become a trainer within our organization, training people not only that are coming into the call center, but throughout our organization on the importance of customer experience.

But you know, we also have some interesting other customer experience positions. We’ve got a head of customer experience that sits over in marketing. We’ve got a customer experience person that works with all of our vendors. Maybe you don’t even like to do customer experience, you’re just really good at doing whatever needs to be done in the moment. So, Russel, where do you want to be a year from now? And have an honest conversation.

Russel Lolacher: Yeah. I, I don’t have an answer for you, Joey

Joey Coleman: Fair, fair enough. And many of your employees won’t. But you know what they’ll appreciate? They’ll appreciate that you asked. And they’ll appreciate that they’re in conversation with someone who clearly is invested in and has a vested interest in their ongoing professional development and success. When we feel that we’re working for somebody who cares about us, when we feel that we’re working for someone that is going to help shepherd our career forward, I don’t care how old you are, how long you’ve been in business, what your CV looks like.

That’s a good place to work. You feel valued, you feel appreciated, you feel like you’re part of the team. This stuff isn’t rocket science. It just requires a little intentionality.

Russel Lolacher: And it’s not a check box exercise because you will see this being, well, I talked to them this week. Yeah, but did you? But did you? But it was in my, my to do list. My boss told me to talk to my employees. So I should do that. It’s a mindset shift that I think really is where a lot of people focus because we hear about these conferences that are amazing.

Leaders go to these conferences. They come back, want to change the world and they don’t do anything after three days or they’ll do one really cool workshop that they saw. Yeah. And then it doesn’t lead to anything. I bring this up because in your book you do case studies from around the world and I’m giving an example that feels very North American. Does this mirror across the planet when it comes to what it takes to keep employees, why they’re leaving? Is this international, Joey?

Joey Coleman: It is. The short answer is it is. Now, let me preface, or let me expound on that a little by saying a couple things. Number one, there are absolutely cultural nuances. Globally, there are absolutely nuances depending on the industry you’re in that, you know, for lack of a better way of putting it, the age or the development of that industry, the regions of the world you’re operating in.

But one of the things that was really important to me was that we had a case study in the book from all seven continents, which I think I might be the first business book to ever do that. And here’s why it was important. Not for the ego stroke, the Guinness Book of World Records. Yes, we had one from all seven continents.

No, it was because I had a hypothesis that human beings have the same desires. when it comes to work, have the same hopes when it comes to work, have the same fears when it comes to work, regardless of how old they are, their race, their gender, where they work, the type of industry they’re in, the country they live in, etcetera.

And the research showed that. Often, as an American, we have a tendency to look at the American version. But I can tell you that this is modeled in Europe. It is modeled in Australia. It is modeled in Africa, in Asia, in South America. These same challenges with employees coming to the table saying, I want to know that I matter.

I want to know that you value me. I want to know that I’m appreciated. I want to things better at a higher you know, rate at a more effective salary or payment schedule two years from now than I am today. I’m willing to work towards making that progress, but I’m expecting you, employer, to be kind of how shall I say, to be as committed to that same goal and that same forward drive as I am.

All and that same forward drive possible if we’re willing to focus in on these employee experience conversations.

Russel Lolacher: I love this, Joey. Like, to be honest, I’m looking at the clock going, I gotta wrap it up. I don’t want to wrap it up. I gotta wrap it up. We could go in so many directions. But I’m going to wrap it up with the question I ask all of my guests.

What’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work? Take a big swiddle, swig of water there, sir.

Joey Coleman: Take a big sip of water here. All right. You asked, I’m going to throw down a gauntlet, Russel. Okay. Now the, the tactic, the technique I’m about to suggest will cost you zero dollars, completed in under five minutes and everybody listening to this podcast is fully capable and able to do it. Whether you will or not? Depends on you. Here’s the challenge. Pull out your phone, open the camera app, slide it over to video, flip it to selfie mode, and I want you to shoot a video of yourself. And I want you to imagine holding the camera up in front of yourself and shooting a video, and the script goes something like this. Now, before we get to the script, Russel, I want you to think of the employee who is most valuable to your organization. The team member that if you didn’t have them on the team, you’d struggle mightily. The person who just they’re they’re fabulous. They’re wonderful. They’re so important. I want you to think of that person. Now what’s interesting is Everybody listening has already thought of someone. Now, this may be a co worker or a colleague. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct report. But if you’re an employer, this works even better. Or a manager, if it’s somebody that reports to you, this works even better.

But it could be somebody who’s above you, somebody who’s on par with you. Doesn’t matter. And you pull out the phone and you shoot the following video. And I’m going to pretend, Russel, that I’m making it for you just to give a little context. Hey, Russel, I was listening to Relationships At Work, this crazy podcast the other day, and they had this guest from the U. S. He was bonkers. His thoughts were kind of a variety of different perspectives. But at the end of the podcast, he challenged us to do something. He challenged us to think of the team member that we couldn’t live without. The team member whose contributions are so valuable, are so significant, so are so important, are so valuable, are that we couldn’t operate without them. And I gotta tell you, as soon as he asked us to think of somebody that fit that description, I immediately thought of you. You’re amazing. Whenever we’re looking for ideas, you’ve always got something. You’ve got a smile on your face all the time. You’re a delight to work with.

You’re fun to hang out with. Remember that one time when we had to day late and we hung out afterwards and we got some pizza and some beers and you were telling me about growing up in Kentucky, I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, I like this guy. He’s got an amazing life story. He’s got an amazing experience. But here’s what I’ve realized. I don’t tell you enough how grateful I am. To have you on this team. I don’t tell you enough how much we appreciate your contributions. How much it means to me personally to know that when the chips are down, when we’re up against the wall, when we’re having a hard time with any one of our customers that I can bring you into the meeting and not only will you make it better, but you’ll help us to think better. You’ll help us to avoid this problem in the future. You will help us to be the best version of ourselves. Russel, thanks for being you. It’s a delight to work with you, and it’s an honor to call you a teammate. And then here’s the pro tip, friends.

Text it to them immediately. Do not watch the video. You’re going to want to watch the video. You’re going to want to pull the video and say, oh, hi, video. You’re going to want to look, what was the lighting? Do not do that, because here’s what I know. If you do that, you won’t actually send it. You’ll go shoot another one, and then it won’t be as authentic.

It won’t be as vulnerable. It won’t be as real. It’ll feel scripted. Just text it to them, and see what happens. Here’s what we know happens based on the research. Number one, they will watch that video on average within 90 seconds of receipt. A texted video gets watched by the recipient within 90 seconds of receipt on average.

Number two, they will watch that video more than once. Why? Because you’ve just given them proof that they matter. And humans globally are dying for proof that they matter. Number three, they will show that video to other people. I promise you, if you send a video like this, it will change that employee’s experience of you. And frankly, it will change your experience as a leader. And if you like doing it once, you could do it again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that, and work your way through your entire team, telling them, giving them a digital artifact, proof that they are seen, that they are heard, that they are valued, and they are appreciated.

Russel Lolacher: That is Joey Coleman. He is a professional speaker, workshop leader, consultant, and author of the book, Never Lose an Employee Again, The Simple Path to Remarkable Retention. Thank you very much, Mr. Joey Coleman.

Joey Coleman: Thank you, Russel. Thanks for having me on the show, and thanks to everybody for listening in.


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