Eric Chester on Employee Retention

Episode #23 – Solving Employee Retention With An On Fire Culture

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with multi-time best selling author, researcher and international Hall of Fame speaker Eric Chester on the ingredients to an on fire workplace culture that solves the employee retention problem.

A few reasons he is awesome – He is an international keynote speaker (a 2004 inductee into the International Professional Speakers Hall of Fame), best-selling author multiple times over with his most recent book Fully Staffed: The Definitive Guide to Finding and Keeping Great Employees available now. Eric has more than 20 years experience of studying, analyzing, and reporting on engaging workplace cultures.

Connect with Eric on his platforms:

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The seven pillars for a great workplace culture
  • How the “Golden Rule” gets in the way of retention
  • The challenges of creating a great culture
  • The warning signs that you need to focus on culture
  • Three questions every organization needs to ask its employees
  • What employees want to be motivated (and motivation wasn’t the word they used)
  • A case study of what valuing employees looks like

“And [managers are] not focussing on what really matters which is developing people from the ground up. And if you do that, now you’re creating people who potentially could fill eventually those mid-management positions all the way up and great organizations realize that.”

Eric Chester

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
On the show today why that’s Eric Chester. And here is why he is awesome. International keynote speaker, a 2004 inductee into the international professional speakers Hall of Fame. Best Selling Author multiple times over with his most recent book, fully staffed the definitive guide to finding and keeping great employees which is available now. More than 20 years experience of studying, analyzing and reporting on engaging workplace cultures, the man knows of what he speaks. Welcome to the show, Eric.

Eric Chester
Wow, that’s a great introduction, Russel. Thank you, man. I’m excited to be here.

Russel Lolacher
Thank you so much. I’m gonna I’ve mentioned this in the intro already. But I did want to mention that I’m a bit of a fanboy. I had read your book on fire at work, how great companies ignite passion in their people. And you are actually one of the top people that I was like, you know, it’d be great to have on the podcast. This is when I was first launching the thing. And I’m like, oh, Eric would be great. I can’t wait. So I am so freaking thrilled you’re here.

Eric Chester
Well, man, now I’m even more excited. Boy, you’re you’re pumping me up early in the morning here.

Russel Lolacher
I like to start high and then just go deep from there, Eric. So why don’t we start with and I asked all my guests this, what’s your best or worst, you can pick one or the other employee experience you’ve ever had?

Eric Chester
You know, I guess I go back to my early jobs and having employers course I grew up in a time when there were more employees than there were positions available, you know, the balance of power has certainly shifted now, especially during this economy, but back in the day, it was tough to get a job. You know, you you you wanted a job. And if you could find a job no matter what it was, you took it. And so I I cut my teeth washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant, and the two owners of the restaurant man and wife, you know, didn’t mess around with this thing called work ethic. And the primary owner, the man would berate me all the time, while I was doing the job. I mean, we had this, there was a new dishwasher there. But he wouldn’t let me use it. He wanted me to wash every dish by hand each stand up my shoulder and, you know, bark commands at me and just intimidate the living crap out of me. And no matter how the whether or not there were customers, II would just stand over me and make me work. I mean, if it was slow as heck, I’d be scraping gum off underneath tables, I’d be filling salt shakers, I mean, stuff that to me, was just unbelievable. But again, it’s like one of your first job experiences and you go, I guess this is a thing called work. Actually looking back, I’m glad I have that wrestle. Because if I had to come into the workplace, and someone would, you know, kiss my tootie all the way I would have thought, Okay, I’m in control. But I learned at an early age… Nope. It’s it’s the boss, and you better do what he, he or she says.

Russel Lolacher
I can’t say I didn’t have a similar experience working in restaurant industries. That was my first job right out of the gate to also a dishwasher. But it was really interesting because that, I mean, I haven’t been in a restaurant in years. But being an employee back, then we’re going back a couple decades here as well. There certainly was that you are replaceable. And there was that fear that you could be easily replaced, you best do a damn good job, or you know, tomorrow, you might not have one. So definitely a different world we live in for sure. And the power has certainly shifted, as you mentioned yourself. And that’s really what I want to dig in today, which is that push to be more focused on employee retention. And your book on fire at work certainly goes down the avenue of culture is the key way of doing that. So why do you feel culture is one of the most important things you need to focus on to retain employees.

Eric Chester
Your your culture is going to ultimately determine I mean, as you’ve read in the new book of fully staffed, I have a chapter on retention and it begins there is no Easter Bunny, there is no Santa Claus, there is no tooth fairy, and there is no such thing as a retention strategy. Because when you get down to it, and you’re like, I gotta hang on to this person. At the end, you’re the only thing you can do is pay more money, right? Somebody’s going to think about leaving, what are you gonna do go up to him and go, I’ll be kinder to you? Or no, you’re gonna turn around and say, Well, what’s your offer? Oh, I’ll pay you twice that to stay here. It becomes a negotiation. Culture is you’re really is really your only true retention strategy. And by that culture, as you know from on fire work are seven cultural pillars, which basically when you look at it seven things every employee wants in their in any job at any level. What do you want? And you know, you start looking at those things you know about compensation. That data might not be the first thing on every employees list, but it’s certainly a consideration. Even people who work for companies where their heart and soul is involved in money still makes a difference. So you know, what am I getting? What do you want me to do? And what are you gonna give me for doing it? Whether that’s money, perks, benefits, time, whatever that is why we have compensation, but then there are these other factors, as you well know, which are, you know, are you going to grow me as an employee? Are you going to communicate with me? Are you going to listen to what I have to say? Am I going to feel accepted here and safe? Are you going to create an atmosphere that’s enjoyable for me, et cetera, et cetera? All of those factors come together to create this thing, which we call culture. And it’s like, why we look at these companies and go, How is Company A able to hang on to their people where company be a competitor may be paying the same amount of money or close to it for the same kind of jobs? It’s like people are leaving in droves? Well, what’s the key? Well, let’s look at some of these other factors, why Company A can keep them as opposed to Company B. Company A might be doing more than just the right things. And Company B might may be doing a lot of the wrong things, or one thing drastically wrong. So, you know, it’s just, it could be any of those things. But that’s, that’s what culture is all about.

Russel Lolacher
I want to just quickly high level just mentioned your seven pillars, which is you mentioned compensation, but alignment values, atmosphere growth, which is around the personal development, acknowledgement, autonomy, and communication. Do you feel this is all needed for employee retention? Because I can hear organizations I can hear leaders, cherry picking, going, you know, what, we don’t have the time and resources. And we can have some easy wins, say, an atmosphere or in autonomy. But you know what, we’re just not ready to pay people more. Do you need all seven? Or can you mix and match till you get to all seven?

Eric Chester
I think the economy is going to let you know what you need to do and what you don’t need to do you turn around and say, you know it, am I going to tell you what you have to do? No, I’m going to say this is what employers are looking for. So go ahead and cut a few of those things turn around and say, Okay, we’re not going to give people a competitive salary, but we expect them to stay. How’s that working for you? Right, or wait a second. You know what, we’re not going to give me a acknowledgement when they do a good job. You know what, you know, my dad used to say, when I say Dad, do you ever get praised at work? He goes, Yeah, every two weeks, I get a little envelope with a paycheck inside. That’s my recognition. In other words, that he grew up in a time where you know, what, if you have a job, that’s enough, keeping your job was enough, in today’s world, no, people want to go, Hey, you gotta tell me when I do a good or you got to, you got to communicate with me. But more than that, I need my attaboys and Pat’s on the back. And I need, you know, to strive to be better and realize that if I do that, there’s going to be some acknowledgement, recognition and rewards. Yeah. Are you doing that? Now? What about autonomy? Right? Are you giving people the opportunity to make a decision? Are you treating them like mindless robots just put part into Part B? Just do what I tell you. And don’t ask why. So how are those things working for you? So yes, every single one of them is important. And if you leave one of them out, you’re probably not going to have a very good chance of recruiting the kind of people you want. Maybe someone who’s desperate for a job and who’s desperate for a job in this economy. People who nobody else wants to hire, because you can swing a cat over your head and he hit 100. Help one signs. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. I tell employers, take down your Help Wanted, and now hiring signs. Nobody needs them everyone anymore. Everyone knows you’re hiring. That’s not a secret. Every business, I don’t care if it’s a government, I don’t care if you go in the DMV, it’s like now hiring every truck you see on the highway says now hiring drivers, everybody is hiring, that everybody else knows it. So guess what? The balance of power has shifted, and employee ease now know, that choice? And so if you’re not going to offer seven cultural pillars, you’re gonna only offer four of them? How’s that working for you?

Russel Lolacher
Absolutely. So of course, like with anything, no organization really makes a change until they’re forced to. And the economy has certainly forced them to relook at how they run their organizations, how they can entice people how they can keep people. So why is it so hard for organizations to do this? I mean, I look at your seven and I go, Well, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But a lot of organizations still coming to the challenges of putting any effort into all of them, unless they are blaringly obvious that they need to what are the stumbling blocks for leadership to go we need to change in order to retain our employees.

Eric Chester
Well, I believe the biggest challenge is that people are playing by the golden rule. The Golden Rule has said, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So we sit back and we imagine our experiences, most leaders grew up, right or started their careers in companies and organizations where again, the balance of power was with the employee or because if you wanted one of those jobs, You better clean up, you better buck up and you better suck up. And if you didn’t, you get fired. So what did you have to do to toe the line? Now they look and say, well, that’s the way I grew up. And so if I’m going to treat other people the way I was treated, right, that that’s it instead of the platinum rule, I didn’t make it up. But I love it, treat other people the way they want to be treated. So now the onus becomes, I better understand this new emerging workforce. Now, it’s not just younger people, that’s a big corner of the market. People who grew up at a different time, have a different view of work, life, family balance, all that stuff. But it’s also, you know, population, you know, that, that, that we look at, we got there’s all ages, there’s lots of diversity among ethnicities, and beliefs, and all of those kinds of things. And the new emerging workforce, when you look at it is different than you are, so you better understand them. And stop trying to manage them the way you are managed. And understand they need to be managed in the way they need to be managed. It doesn’t mean we’ve got to cater to their every whim, trust me. I’m not saying pander to your employees, but you better understand what they’re looking for who they are, what matters, because that’s where you can meet them head on. Look, anyone that’s a business owner, leader, manager wrestle when they came into their job, they thought, oh, my god, how am I going to get customers in today’s world? Who can get customers right and left? Right? You can get customers all day long. The thing that keeps people up at night is how am I going to get employees this morning before this? This podcast, I’m looking for a new cover for my hot tub. It’s a very traditional size and shape. And whatever I’m looking, I’m visiting website after website after website. And I’m trying to figure out how can I get a hot tub cover that for a very traditional IT, we’re talking six months lead time to order a stupid spa cover, you used to be able to walk into a spa store and there were dozens of choices. Now you’re turning around gone. Another word, you’re going to need six months to build this. So I can cover my hot tub. Why labor shortage which of course affects the supply chain, things have changed Russel and employers better wise up and go, culture matters.

Russel Lolacher
So how are leaders getting in their own way, because what I’m hearing here is a big listening problem. They’re not listening to the market, they’re not listening to their employees is it just stuck in their own, you know, 1956 bubble.

Eric Chester
And that’s probably it. Some of them are frustrated, this hit them like a two tsunami, they didn’t expect, you know, things to happen the way they’ve happened. All these factors are hitting them and the pace of change is changing so fast. And so they just turn around and go, You know what, I’m just gonna put it more now hiring signs. I’m just going to post more job openings, you know, on on these job boards, and sooner or later, someone’s going to see them and we’ll get you know, what we’ll get are people or just relying on your HR department saying, you know, HR, that’s your job, just go out and get it some people. And they’re not realizing that the greatest responsibility for business leaders, owners, managers, supervisors in today’s world, is to recruit relentlessly. Look, what I present in my book. It’s not rocket science, it’s just the facts. If you want to be fully staffed in today’s world, number one, you got to be a great place to work. That’s culture. Number two, you’ve got to recruit relentlessly. You can’t say I’m full. We’re okay. I got enough people to make it through this week, you no longer can do that. I equate it with painting the Golden Gate Bridge out in San Francisco. My dad would tell me when I was a boy, they never stopped painting the Golden Gate Bridge, it will always be a work in motion because once they finish it and get to the other side, it’s time to repaint it again. Same thing, same thing when it comes to recruiting. We are for the extended future unless we go through a recession that turns us into a depression right where now people are, you know, you know knocking on doors begging for dishwasher jobs, which I don’t see happening. But until such a thing happens there, it’s going to be a long time before the balance of power shifts again. And bosses and employers say, I can do anything I want with my culture and pay any amount of money. And guess what, I’ll get people. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. My second job at a grocery store, I’ll never forget, I was doing a great job, I was getting paid almost $2 an hour. And I wanted to get that mythical two to second dollar per hour. So I went to my boss, and I said, Hey, I think I’ve done a really good job. I’d like to make that and I’d like to be moved up to $2. He said, Chester, follow me. He pulls me back to his office opens his file drawer. At the bottom, there was a stack of applications. And he goes, all those people will work with what for what I’m paying you right now? What do I need to pay two bucks an hour? And it was just the shock. Guess what? I’m lucky to have this job. No one in the workplace feels that way anymore. Russel. Right.

Russel Lolacher
Fair comment. And I’ve talked to quite a few organizations where onboarding is certainly something they’re investing in and kind of half ass, focusing on exit interviews, and so forth. But when I bring up things like stay interviews, which is that listening to what’s working, what isn’t working for the employees that haven’t left during this great resignation, or great waking up, or whatever people are calling it, I really love the fact that you kind of focus on that with your series of interviews, where you actually went and talked to front counter staff and others about what’s working for them and not where you’re literally doing the job of what their organizations they work for, should actually be doing their damn selves. What did you find or most surprised about by going through all those interviews?

Eric Chester
Well, it is part of what I do I take my little iPhone, and when when a client hires me, whether it’s a, you know, a burger chain, or pizza chain, you know, we’re talking about, you know, labor in the, in the trucking and transportation industry. I recently, you know, work with a client that does big landscaping projects, and they go, okay, so we have these strategies that have been put in place for our management, you know, our golden handcuffs, etc. And I’m going to look, we’re talking about the people that you need to do the job, the actual worker bees, let’s, let’s get let’s create a culture that worked for them. Because if you create a culture that works for them, I guarantee you, it’s going going to help raise the culture for everyone in your organization, if all you’re focused on is keeping your mid level management, that’s all you’ll keep. And they’ll become frustrated, and eventually leave. Because they don’t have the workforce they need to get their job done. So you know, let’s start there, let’s create a culture that works for everyone. And, you know, Russel, oftentimes, management has a blind eye to that, you know, they don’t want to, they don’t want to, they see that frontline is kind of an expense item, you know, churn and burn, let’s just get some people let’s, let’s get them in and get them out. Or they’re going to leave. So what the hell difference does it make, right, they’re just gonna leave for that place down the street that’s offering 50 cents more an hour, then we’ll match that salary. And we’ll try to get somebody else. And they’re not focusing on what really matters, which is developing people from the ground up. And if you do that, you know, now you’re creating people who potentially could fill eventually, those mid management positions all the way up, and great organizations realize that.

Russel Lolacher
Just seeing some of their faces, when you’re interviewing them, you can tell they were just sort of like, I’m just thrilled somebody’s actually listening to me. There’s actually somebody across from me, that is listening, that wants to hear what I have to say. And I think that’s so paramount to understanding what needs to work on what doesn’t need to work on. So going back to your seven pillars, whose responsibility is it to make those a priority in an organization to retain those employees?

Eric Chester
Well, some people believe culture is what the employees make of it. And I say no, if you want to be a leader, you take the first step. So in these video interviews, which I do, and when I present for a company or an organization, I love to take my little iPhone, go in and sit down with the frontline employees and simply ask them questions. Why do you work here? What do you like? I mean, you know, tell me about your first day, how did they onboard you? Or, you know, how did you learn your skills here? And you ask very fundamental questions. And through that process, you get these, you know, golden moments of, aha, wow, we didn’t know that. And then I incorporate those in my life presentations, to help keep the audience on a backstage tour inside the minds of the people that keep them up at night. And then Have I thought this but wow, that happened. So I’ll give you one specific example. What shocks me is, most managers think God, you got to pay these people all the time, you got to reckon you got to give them some reward for everything they do if they make a good cup of coffee in the morning for me, I’ve got to give them a reward. If they wind up showing up, I’ve got to give them a reward, I gotta get more. Well, I’ve done 1000s of employee interviews, and I say when you go above and beyond when you do a great job, what is it you really want 99% of those individuals interviewed said, Just acknowledgement, just call me I did a good job. In fact, they go beyond that. And they go and tell me when I do a bad job. And or just come up and and say, here’s what you need to get better not just don’t do it that way, say, hey, I need the floors, to be spotless in here. Here’s why this is what our customers demand. And this is why it’s important. And here’s what we found out about sweeping floors, that makes it easier on the people who are doing it. So the floors look better, and your job is simpler. Let me show you. Because I think there’s something here that that you can learn and become better at. And by the way, when it comes to cleaning the countertops, and you rock and roll. That’s a whole lot different than that’s a crappy job, Russel, go clean the floors again, which is the way most of the people are listening to the podcast were treated when they came into the workforce, and it doesn’t work anymore.

Russel Lolacher
So compensation, alignment, atmosphere growth, acknowledgement, autonomy, communication. How do you know you need to work on these as an organization? How do you know what’s the canary in the coal mine? That sort of explains to you Oh, you know what, we’re falling down. We need to relook at this.

Eric Chester
Well, the first canary in the coal mine is your turnover rates. I mean, you look and go man, people just aren’t staying. Is that damn this new workforce? Or is it man, I need to do something different. So awareness, first of all, but there is a problem as a first step in solving the problem guy. So awareness, then what do I do? Well, I think you mentioned to Russel, you, if you a s k, you will g e t. You know, why not? I mean, look, is there is there any company anymore that doesn’t try to survey their customers? I’m gonna do it all the time. We want reviews, we want testimonials. Every time you go to a restaurant anyway, what Hey, what did you like where you? Are you call customer service? Do you stay on the line and give us your feedback? We want to hear from our customers. The big mistake is we don’t ask our employees enough. Here’s three simple questions that every every company needs to be asking their people, especially their frontline people, on a regular basis. Now I’m going to let everybody think of what a regular basis is. Is that once a year? No. Is it once a quarter? I’m closer? How about once a month you’re getting warmer? Why not ask people don’t just say I have an open door policy, if you ever have a problem coming in see me because by the time they have a problem they’ve left, right that that’s not gonna work. So why not proactively ask him three simple questions. What do you like about working here? What don’t you like about working here? Man, if you could do one thing to make this a better place to work? If you were in charge, how would you go about doing that? Man, you might get some ridiculous answers. Give everybody a Mazda Rottie that to deliver their pizzas in? Okay, listen, don’t criticize him. Listen, it’s a dumb idea. You’re not gonna do it. It’s a wisecrack. And you’re gonna get some of those. But you’re also going to get these brilliant pieces, you’re going to see consistency, you’re going to see how your employees really feel, you know, when you have when turnover catches you by surprise. Go dumb me. I should be listening to my people more. If I’m surprised by the turnover is because I’m not asking the right questions. I’m not in touch with the mindset of my frontline or my workforce. I don’t know what they think. So ask, ask frequently asked, you know, whether that’s Survey Monkey, which is probably a stupid idea, right? But it’s more than one to one relationship, or at least, you know, just saying, Look, I really want to make this a great place to work. Well, you help me when you give me periodic feedback. I’m going to be asking you a series of questions asked during the job interview, so that when somebody is hired, they’re not surprised when they get, you know, they get handed a sheet of paper or they get a text and they say, Hey, you know, tell me these things or submit them blind because somebody might want to tell you something that’s going on but they don’t want to snitch or they don’t want their name attached. So hey, you can do Would anonymously would make this a better place to work. Write it down, suggest it do whatever you need to do to somehow Tell me, what is it you really like working about here, they might say, I really like reporting to Joe Joe’s a great guy, many listens to me all the time, he gave me Thursday afternoons off, because he knows I’ve got a schedule and I got to pick up my son from school that added added that listen, listen to what you’re doing well listen to what you’re not doing well, and listen to their ideas. It’s no different than what you’re getting from your customers, except instead of, you know, radically changing your approach to market your, you’re changing your employment brand. And that matters.

Russel Lolacher
I couldn’t agree more. I’m a big fan of the idea of taking all the tactics and approaches and materials that you use to better understand your customers use the same damn tools for your own employees, they’re already out there, they already work. I don’t understand why it’s such a hill too far to go along, you’ve got the surveys, be a silent shopper to your own staff, like there’s so many things you could be doing to better understand them. But I also feel like you’ll do these presentations, and you’ll talk about your seven pillars or how to be fully staffed, and you’ll get these leaders that go Yeah, okay. And then they’ll maybe do seven for a little while and then stop because they don’t know how to make it operational. Or they feel like that might be too much work to make it part of their literally make these pillars part of their culture, ironically, that improve the culture. What do you say to those people that are just sustaining? It might be their biggest challenge?

Eric Chester
Well, first of all, some clarification, these are my seven pillars. When I wrote this, the book on fire or on fire at work, how great companies ignite passion in their people without without burning them out. The whole idea was based upon a question that I get asked, oftentimes, how do you motivate employees? So I decided I’m gonna go after great companies that are constantly winning awards, and recognition, you know, Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For or business journals or, you know, achievers, international, or whatever that was what which companies in which industries are considered the best place to work in their respective industry. And I wanted to get to the top person possible if I could get to the CEO, great. If I could get to the, you know, the chief people, officer, whoever that was, I just wanted to say, how do you motivate your employees, you know, with their startling thing was, I never heard somebody use the word motivation in their response to me, because great companies realize that motivation is a temporary fix, motivation leaves when the motivator leaves, right? Motivation is temporary. It’s a warm bath, it’s cotton candy, motivation comes and goes, the word I heard was Inspire. How do you create a culture that inspires people to work harder to perform better, and to stay longer? So it’s a long term fix? Right? So these aren’t my seven pillars? These are the things that all the employees I’ve interviewed, talk about. I’m just, I’m just, I’m just the messenger, I just reveal. So I don’t think anybody sits down and goes, Okay, what are we going to do about autonomy today? They have to look at the overall picture, and ask themselves a question. Are we micromanaging our people? Do our people feel micromanaged? Well? Are we asking them that? are we hearing a lot of boy, nobody lets me ever make a decision. And, you know, I could help our customers more frequently, if I just had a little bit more leeway. Or, you know, are we listening to what they say? And then if we hear that we go, Hmm, that’s something we need to work on. If everybody is saying, just don’t get paid enough? I mean, jeez, I could do I could make a whole lot more money doing this exact same job, just across town? Well, we better take a serious look at our compensation. Right? And if somebody’s saying, you know, gosh, I don’t feel valued around here. Well, we better take a look at our acknowledgement, and you get the drift. So sooner or later people are, every culture has all seven pillars. The question is, to what degree there’s no company out there that says, we have zero recognition. We don’t ever recognize people. There’s No Business Like that. Because if a bit of a business was like that, they wouldn’t be in business. So to what degree do they have employee communication? You know, tell their employees what they need to know should know want to know and and are we listening to them? Okay, maybe once a year when we give them a performance review, we finished with, is there anything you want to say? Which would be a very dismal way of saying that’s how we communicate with our employees, but everybody has these seven pillars in their operation that question is to what degree and great leaders say how can I get better. And when I say great leaders, I’m talking about the people who are winning awards, the people, the companies and organizations that are the top in their industry. They’re asking those questions because they realize that what they did yesterday isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow. So they’re continually trying to improve every aspect of their organization. And in doing so, their application flow goes up. More people want to work there. They can be choosy about who they hire, and they get, you know, they win the battle in their market segment, because everyone wants to do business with them. So if I called a spa cover place today, and they answered the phone on the first ring, and I said, you know, I’m looking for a spa cover. And they said, and I told them what I was looking for, they got great we have when we can send it out today. You know, I don’t care what it is. Okay, I care what it costs. Do I want that? Yes. Will I pay more? Absolutely. How will that spa manufacture? How can they crank it out in a week when everybody else has taken six months? Because they have the people. How do they get the people? They have a great culture.

Russel Lolacher
Eric, did you ever have an AHA moment when you were first starting out? And going down this path of educating or being a messenger, as it were, of sharing the importance of culture and employee retention? Was there sort of a story for yourself or a friend of yours where you just went? Yeah, I see the linkages and this is a story I need to tell.

Eric Chester
Yeah, absolutely. That happened. I remember, you know, going into an Apple store for you know, an upgrade on my iPhone, and where I live in Golden Colorado. It’s a suburb of Denver, the closest Apple Store was about 30 miles away. And so I went to you know, I wanted to be there when the mall opened, you know, I wanted to you know, I wanted to get this, this taken care of right away. So I went, it was just a normal day. And I remember got the parking lot seems empty is a huge mall, Park Meadows mall in Highlands Ranch area of, of Denver. So I go to this enormous mall, and you can fire a cannonball down the mall and you probably wouldn’t hit a soul. Okay, this is pre pandemic. But when I got to the Apple Store, inside, and there’s 532 Apple stores on the planet. There were it looked like the place was packed. I mean, there were at least 50 employees all in matching blue shirts. And you know, the store was already packed with customers. I’m going, wow. Well, I walk inside the mall. It’s, you know, this door, it opened at 10 in the morning, everyone is the whole place is packed. And so I’m I’m like, you check in at the front, and you let them know why you’re there. And, you know, a few minutes later, I’m in front of the customer service sales person. Of course at the Apple store. They don’t call them sales clerks or customer service people. They call them geniuses. Because if you want to be a sales clerk, you work at Best Buy or target. You want to be a genius. You work at Apple. So every one of those people they know their products, they know their customer, they’re so well trained. So I’m talking to my genius and the next thing you know, this huge Ovation breaks out. I mean, you hear people start screaming, ranting clapping, like Bruno Mars is in concert. And I’m like, What is going on? I turn around behind me I see this guy walk up from the back. And I can’t recognize him. I’m like, Who is that? Is he a celebrity a reality show star is did this guy just you know person purchase the 1 billion phone or computer they’ve ever apples ever made. And so I’m trying to get gather my wits, I actually pulled out my phone and started photographing videoing what’s going on? And so when I turned to my genius and said, what’s going on? Here he goes, it’s his last day. Like, what do you mean? And they go, every employee at an Apple Store gets a standing ovation on their first day. And on their last day. It’s called clapping and clapping out. So Russel, I grew up in a time where it was always the customers first. The customer’s always right, and the customer is king. And here I am standing in an Apple Store and Apple being the wealthiest company on the planet with $3 trillion in assets. And what did they do? They completely changed the equation. No, the customer isn’t always right. No, the customer isn’t the king and the customer isn’t number one. What happens in an Apple store the employees number one and they not only allow they invite their employees to turn their backs on their customers and applaud each other. That is recognition. That is culture. Because customers don’t mind when they saw that tremendous ovation for that person who, what is simply their last day at work. When they saw all of that ovation? Did it make them want to leave and say, Wait a second, I’m not getting attention? No. Because what happened is, they found that their genius was more connected than ever before. And they love their products. They love their brand. They love their store. It was unbelievable. So it was at an AHA moment. You bet. Because they didn’t do that at 9:50. Before they raise the gate, right?… to the store. They didn’t do it at 9:50 at night after the store was closed, they did it in the middle of the day. In the middle of the day. AHA? You bet it was an aha moment. Acknowledgement matters. And every genius in that store, every employee realized, someday it’s their turn, they’re gonna get recognized, they’re gonna get acknowledged. And does that matter.

Russel Lolacher
And I want to point out here that you not only talk about your most, your more recent frustration, you know, trying to get a cover for your sauna, but also your aha moment of recognition, both of those you’re seeing as a customer, not employee. So any organization that doesn’t seem to understand that culture equals retaining and making employees happy, doesn’t bleed out into how you present yourself to your customers, doesn’t understand how this works. So I love that you’re seeing it from even just from the outside looking in, it matters. Imagine what it feels like being on the inside of a great culture?

Eric Chester
Well, you know, you think about it. And if you went right now Googled customer experience, you’re gonna find a gazillion books, tons of speakers and people who will tell you how important the customer experience is. What they fail to realize is the customer experience is in direct relationship to the employee experience. You don’t have a good employee experience, guess what you’re going to lose the battle, the battle of the 18 inches between the nose of your customers and the nose of your frontline employees, you got to win that real estate that 18 inches, that person has got to be so fired up about their brand, their company, their organization, that they make you a fan. That’s how you make the customer experience work. So I give you example, after example of trying to get you know, I’m getting a, you know, I’m in the process of getting solar panels put on my house, I’m getting contacted by people. And when they I mean, when I get contacted, I said please, Russel, turn off your monitor, I don’t want you to read the script and talk to me like a human being, like we just met. Tell me what most of those people have no idea what they’re doing, they have to read off off the script that’s in front of them, they don’t know how to go. Let me tell you some great things about our product. Or let me tell you what I think we might be able to do they don’t they’re not taught to think they’re just taught to read just you might as well use AI, robotic automatons. We’re not caring enough for our people. You know, you talk about relationships at work, right? The most important relationship is the relationship between the employer and the employee II. If you don’t get that, right, it doesn’t matter whether or not the employee and the employee II get along. That’s important. But it’s how do I get along with the people that report to me? How do I make them a respect me want to please me want to work hard for me. And what how do I do that? Do I just pander to them and give them everything they want? No, because I’m a crappy leader. I’ve got to develop a relationship, right? Because rules without a relationship will always lead to rebellion.

Russel Lolacher
I like that you just literally wrote the tagline for this podcast. Thank you so much for that, Eric.

Eric Chester
Hey, anything I can do.

Russel Lolacher
I can’t think of a better place to leave it than there. So I’m going to wrap this up and ask you that one final question for the podcast, which is… Eric Chester, what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Eric Chester
Stop talking, started listening. I hate to say it stop talking. Right? What’s important is you need to listen. Listen to the person that’s on your right you’re less left. Listen to the people above you that people below you listen, what are they saying? Right? Whether you agree or disagree, suspend that. Listen, take it in. If you take it in, you’ll learn so much more. Nobody ever learned anything with their mouth open. Right? Learn, understand, let that wash over you. Right? Make your decisions based upon what you’re hearing. And they’re not easy decisions. I’m not saying this is it, it’s simple. It’s not easy. It’s a grind. It’s hard. And it goes against what you really want to do, which is to treat everyone the way you want to be treated golden rule, treat people the way they want to be treated. And the only way to do that is listen to them. value what they say. Learn as much as you can, and then put it into action.

Russel Lolacher
That is Eric Chester keynote speaker, an international professional speaker Hall of Famer, if I say so, and multi author of his latest book, which is fully staffed the definitive guide to finding and keeping great employees go check it out, and I can’t speak highly enough of on fire at work. It’s how I learned of Eric myself. So thank you again, Eric. Really appreciate your time, sir.

Eric Chester
Russel, you have a great podcast. I’m a big fan. Thank you so much for having me a part of it.

 

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