[00:00:00.550] - Chris
Well, we'd like to welcome you to this episode of Great Practices. And it's been said that employees don't leave companies, but they leave managers. And there was a seminal study from Gallup in 2015 that definitely backs this up up. They said that 75% of people quit their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career. Now, that sounds reasonable. Falls into the category of enough people upset it enough times. So it must be true. The flip side is other studies claim that this is not true and that people will stay with a bad manager if they feel that there's good leadership in the company. And then we've also all been experiencing the great resignation, the great reset, the great realization, whatever it is that you want to call it. But the bottom line is this. People leave companies. It happens. But it's our job as PMO leaders to make sure that top talent stays and that they have a great employee experience. So we always talk about customer experience. That's always something. It's like, oh, we want to make sure everyone has a great customer experience. But what about a great employee experience?
[00:01:13.650] - Chris
Because that really will result in a great customer experience. So that's what we're going to be talking with Janet Thomas, who is the VP of human resources of Mueller Water Products today about is how to deal with this massive shift in talent and what we can do about it as a PMO leader in order to make sure that there is a great employee experience. So, Janet, we'd like to welcome you, and we're glad that you're on Great Practices today.
[00:01:42.180] - Janet
Thank you, Chris. I'm happy to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.
[00:01:46.130] - Chris
So we're going to start off with just you telling us a little bit about who you are and what you do, a little bit about your background.
[00:01:53.870] - Janet
Well, I have always said that I'm in the business of people so very relevant conversation for us today. I am enormously grateful to have fallen into human resources at the beginning of my career, really by accident, honestly, and just hit my stride and took it from there. I've worked in manufacturing, manufacturing plans, HR manager there. I've worked in some labor relations roles. I've worked on the talent side, talent space, which is succession planning, talent acquisition, leadership development. And now I find myself with Mueller Water Products. And we are an infrastructure manufacturing company, Foundry company. You're based in your core, water piping, valves, that type of product to support water flow, sustainability, quality globally.
[00:02:42.470] - Chris
Got it. So you have definitely been around people and human resources throughout your career. It sounds like that's really been your sweet spot for many years now, which is great. It's good. Now, one of the first questions we ask every guest is, what's your definition of a PMO? Because everybody may have a little bit of a different perspective. So what are your thoughts on what a PMO is.
[00:03:03.950] - Janet
So I had a good visibility to a PMO and the impact that it can make because I've seen a PMO come in where it wasn't before and how it made a difference. And my thought is a PMO is somebody who is a neutral expert that can come into any process or project that needs to happen and just make sure that it stays on track, on time, on budget, and is moving in the right direction. They are a critical piece to the success of any big project that needs to happen and to flip that. I've seen projects without a dedicated PMO, and I've seen firsthand where you have too many leaders that are trying to make things happen and things can fall apart at the scene and have experience that they are very critical resource for successful project execution and business.
[00:03:57.950] - Chris
And I love that those two words. You use a neutral expert. It's like not taking sides. It's not necessarily an agenda. The only agenda is let's get this thing done right, whatever it is. So I love that. That's great. So let's shift gears into the topic for today because we know right now that the market is challenging to keep people based on your experience, what are some of the main reasons that you think people are leaving companies? What's happening?
[00:04:27.290] - Janet
There's a lot of different layers to this. I think we all know that there are just a lot more choices out there coming through what we've been through, people are making different decisions about how they want their work life balance, about what their critical needs are. I think it's different in different generations. I also think there's a lot of different ways to earn a living right now, and we just can't assume that everybody is going to stay the course and kind of stay what they're doing from a career perspective. And so it becomes even more, even more vital to make sure that we are tapping into the right talent that are in the right Lane so that they can be most successful based on what their passion is and what they're doing. But I think I veered away from your question. I think it is more and more competitive right now to find the skill and find the people. From a recruiting standpoint, anybody is open to being led away to a different company.
[00:05:26.170] - Chris
Yeah, well, I think you said it right. It's choices. People have choices right now. It's the supply demand curve that's going on right now. So if those choices are out there, people are going to take advantage of them for sure. What effect does this exodus have on managers? Let's start there. What have you seen that this is causing for managers?
[00:05:50.630] - Janet
It is incredibly difficult to backfill and on board and continuously bring new people into any managers organization. It can impact morale within the team. If you have too many people leaving, it's a struggle to move forward again if all you're doing is onboarding and retraining and onboarding and retraining, managers can take it personally, too, if they're in the right mindset that employees are choosing to leave rather than come forward and say, hey, I have this opportunity, but I love working for you, and I love this company. I want to say, what can we do? And I think that's a critical piece that's missing is building that bridge so that employees feel that before they make that kind of decision, they're still going to see if they have the same opportunity with the company that they're with.
[00:06:40.070] - Chris
And that is interesting because managers can take it personally. It's a professional environment. You know, people are making the choices for their career and that type of deal. But it's just like when somebody does come to you that you've enjoyed working with and they say they're leaving, it kind of hurts, doesn't it? And so you're right. That can definitely get to taking it personally.
[00:07:01.880] - Janet
It does because there can be this feeling of betrayal because somebody doesn't get a job overnight. So that means that for maybe two months, this has all been going on and you didn't know it. And so there's that whole trust question, and it's an emotional process, assuming that it is what we call now regrettable turnover versus non regrettable turnover.
[00:07:23.630] - Chris
Explain that to me. What's the difference there?
[00:07:25.630] - Janet
It's a new metric that we follow. Regrettable turnover, meaning we lost somebody that was a great talent to the organization. Okay. Non regrettable turnover means it was probably a good switch in the position. It's a good opportunity for us to change or upgrade the talent. We're okay with this.
[00:07:42.240] - Chris
[00:07:42.570] - Janet
So it's a subjective measure, but it's an important one.
[00:07:46.200] - Chris
Yeah. Okay. No, that's good. Regrettable versus non regrettable. Right. You don't want to lose that top talent. What impact has this had, like, on people that have stayed behind? Right. It's like you've got these people that are leaving and you've got people that stay behind. Is that kind of getting their head a little bit too without seeing all these other people leave?
[00:08:06.570] - Janet
I think so. Not only that, but the people that stay behind are the ones that are keeping the boat afloat. And so it could mean extra effort. It could mean extra time. It could mean again repeating over and over again and feeling like they're not making progress from a mental standpoint. And a manager loses the opportunity to pay the right attention to those people that are staying behind again because it's such a hamster wheel. And I might still be here, I might be staying behind, so to speak. But it doesn't mean that I don't want more challenges and to move forward and to do things different. But we're so busy just kind of remaining where we are and bringing new people on that it could lead to my discouragement.
[00:08:46.510] - Chris
Yeah. So it sounds like there's a potential for a lot of mental anguish here on both levels. Right. On the manager level, you've got that betrayal and that feeling like, oh, I'm losing another good person. And then on that individual level of why am I not taking advantage of all these opportunities that are out there? So that's a lot of stuff that's going on. So what is Human Resources going to do to fix this? You're VP of HR. So what are you going to do to fix this, Janet? What's the answer here?
[00:09:17.360] - Janet
Well, what Human Resources can do is support a process to educate managers and empower managers to understand their vital role in maintaining their team. As you open the session, Chris, and you said many times employees stay or leave managers. This is just what an incredible opportunity a manager has to be able to impact this. And Human Resources can support that by reminding managers how to recognize how to reward, how to have that personal connection, how to make sure that that employee is feeling so connected and engaged that they wouldn't consider leaving because this feels like a good place to be due to how they're managed. So really, it's not Human Resources job to fix it. It's Human Resource's job, in my opinion, to really support and empower managers to know how to take control of this.
[00:10:14.790] - Chris
Got it. So it is ultimately the manager's responsibility. But it sounds like Human Resources can give them the tools that they need in order to allow them to have.
[00:10:25.210] - Janet
Those conversations and keep them the managers responsibility and opportunity. I just always keep putting that word in there because you want to kind of inspire managers to say, you're right, I can do this, I can control this. This is my opportunity, right?
[00:10:39.770] - Chris
Yeah, that's a great way to look at it. So let's say that I am an okay manager. I do an okay job. What would my view as far as the responsibility of Human Resources when it comes to hiring and keeping people? What is my world look like if I'm just an okay manager about that?
[00:11:01.830] - Janet
If I'm just an okay manager, then I'm not prioritizing the talent on my team. If I'm just an okay manager, then I'm not insisting that I participate in the interview process. I'm not insisting that I'd be the one to reach out to candidates because that one on one outreach from a manager versus from a recruiter or from HR can just set you off on the right track from the beginning. If I'm an okay manager, I'm just willing to kind of look at the experience and not pay attention to the fit on the team. I'm just willing to plug as quickly as I can because there's an opening. I think that's a definition of an okay manager whose team will never likely not excel.
[00:11:48.550] - Chris
Yeah. Basically they're just saying, hey, I need this person, and I'm going to abdicate that responsibility to somebody else, and then they just have them show up and they're part of the team. But that is not the path to success by any stretch. How would you say then contrast that with a great manager? How would a great manager think differently about that whole process right there? What would that look like for them?
[00:12:12.820] - Janet
I would go all the way to the beginning that a great manager prioritizes their connection with the team. And from the very, very beginning again, I go back to even how you hire it's, prioritizing the outreach, finding the talent, saying, I want you on my team, building that connection, and then insisting, insisting the great manager is prioritizing how that person will fit on their team, how they will be a culture fit, as well as having the skill coming in. And we'll make sure that the priority is on one on one touch bases, making sure the connection is there, following up, following through, finding out where that employee is on their learning curve and making sure they're not micro managing versus releasing for more responsibility when the time is right, and just being a student of management and leadership and meeting their employees where they are.
[00:13:11.690] - Chris
Right. You mentioned it a couple of times. It sounds like a huge part of this is making sure that they fit with the team, that connection with the team and the culture with the team. What are some of the ways people can do that? How can you find out if that person is going to be a fit with the team?
[00:13:29.830] - Janet
Well, I hope it's okay for me to say this, but actually one of my leadership lessons was when I did not pay attention to the culture fit. I got dazzled by the talent, by the skill, and I didn't pay attention to the team, and it was enormously disruptive, which is why this is really a hot spot for me. And I think you involve your team in the interview process. If you're really getting to the candidate that you want to bring on board, then ask your team if they want to jump and they can do it as three or four people together. And it doesn't have to be an interview. It can be a conversation and guide the team on what kind of questions to ask. Hey, Sally, it looks like you've got some great experience. It would be fun to have you on the team. What's the best thing you've ever done that you're most proud of and make it more of a conversation rather than an interview, and then get their feedback. And then your team is feeling empowered to be a part of this process, too.
[00:14:19.850] - Chris
And I think we've all experienced having the wrong person thinking, right, you're hiring for talent, right? It's like, oh, my goodness, this person, they know. Exactly. And they can lead us in this new direction, and they're the silver bullet of what we're going to need. But they just don't gel and it is disastrous. I think that is absolutely right. And then it's so hard to make a switch once they're on board. All right, so we found the right person, they've got the right skills, they've got the right talent. We've been able to vet them out with the team. We feel good about them. We've been involved alongside with them through the whole interview process. Now let's talk about their onboard, and you're a firm believer in a great employee experience. So what is all involved when it comes to an employee experience? What does that look like?
[00:15:09.500] - Janet
It's an interesting question because you went from onboarding to employee experience. I think you never have the chance to redo a first day. You never have the chance to redo a first week. So if I made this incredible decision to join your team or join your company and I come on the first day and nothing is prepared for me and I don't have any direction, and I'm sitting idle and I could disconnect immediately. I could think, well, I made this big decision, and then nobody's here to embrace me. And this isn't difficult to make sure that an employee feels welcome. So I guess if you do the counter to that and imagine an employee coming in, you're ready to spend the time with them. You have other people set up to welcome them, and it's a tremendous integration into the company. You started to build that bridge immediately within the first 24 hours. And so I think it's both. It's an emotional connection as well as just the tactical that every day I have all the tools that I need to be able to do my job. From day one. You put both of those together and you're really receiving a new employee.
[00:16:16.430] - Chris
Well, and that is huge because you're exactly right. What is it? You've got one shot to make a first impression, and that first impression is going to be a lasting impression. We know that happens on a personal level, like, oh, that person's a jerk or that person's great, whatever, right? But it's the same thing if we just literally it's like just your desks over there and go figure it out versus just embracing them and welcoming them, having signage and gift bags and all that kind of stuff, all the stuff that you really don't think that often about necessarily, but it makes a huge difference. And I've seen people's eyes light up when they see their name and lights. It's like whether it's a big monitor or something like that, and they just see their name. They're so excited and they take pictures of it and they're standing beside and all that kind of stuff. It's a big deal. So that's a real good way to get everybody off on the right foot. Now let's say that this employee has gone through the interview process. We've embraced them with open arms. They've been there for a while, and they are great.
[00:17:19.510] - Chris
How do we find out if these people are happy? You're talking about something like a stay interview. It's like a new term that I've been hearing a little bit about recently. Can you talk about what that stay interview is about?
[00:17:33.910] - Janet
Yeah, you're absolutely right, because for a long time it was all about the exit interview. But the exit interview is a little too late. Right. And secondly, it's hard to get that feedback. A stay interview means getting into a certain cadence of sitting down with your employee. And this might be quarterly instead of waiting for the big performance review, sitting down and just conversing about Where's your level of satisfaction with your job? What can I do as a manager to support you? Further? How are you feeling in terms of engaged to the team? You can even be outright to say, I'm sure you get some outreach from recruiters. Is there anything you ever think about? If so, can we have a conversation about that? There's never anything wrong with putting it all out on the table and to the employee. Imagine how they received that. They're like, wow, Ted must really value me and want me on the team to have this discussion. And again, it just builds that trust, which is invaluable.
[00:18:33.190] - Chris
How honest do you think people will be in responses to a stay interview? Do you find that they're pretty forthright, or are they guarded? Perhaps.
[00:18:43.210] - Janet
I think it all depends on the foundation of the relationship. Right. If there's trust already there. And so you're right. Maybe depending on how new the employee is, if you're just building you don't go as far as to say, have you received outreaches? You focus more on what can I do more for you to continue your connection? And you're so important to the organization, what would make you bulletproof so that you'll stay here? So you kind of turn it more to the positive and say just that. What would make you bulletproof to anybody reaching out to you so that you remain an important member of my team?
[00:19:21.730] - Chris
I think we started out the conversation with the fact that you've got to have that trust again. When somebody leaves you to feel like that trust has been betrayed and you get all the nuances and you understand why that is. But if you do have a good professional, trustworthy, working relationship with an employee, they will keep you up to date, right. And they will keep you informed and they will give you a heads up. But like you're saying, that just takes time. They got to know that you've got their back and that they do have that high level of trust right now. Circumstances change. People get better, people get worse. Let's talk about maybe somebody that's not performing like they used to. How do you handle those situations as a manager with people that want to stay, but maybe their performance has deteriorated? What's the best way to work through that.
[00:20:17.920] - Janet
So one of the simple questions that I've always asked when a manager comes for counseling to say, listen, John, he used to be a superstar and all of a sudden he's not performing anymore is quite simply to say, is this a skill or is this a will question? So meaning if it's a skill question, as John gotten into something that he's not comfortable with, do we need to train him? That's kind of the easiest answer. If it's a will question, meaning motivation, then something has changed. Is he no longer challenged by what he's doing? Does he need to move to something different? Has it finally got to the point where we realize this just isn't where John belongs, he should be in a different Lane? I mean, all of those types of questions, there might be things that are happening on John's personal side, too, which is a different kind of conversation. But from a real standpoint, if that starts to change, it either means he or she is losing their confidence or just learning their motivation because they've done it before and they're ready to move on to something different. So kind of getting through that conversation initially and figuring out which route to take helps to get to the bottom of it.
[00:21:25.650] - Chris
That's a great place to start. I mean, as good of place as any skill or will. Right? Can they do it and do they want to do it as effectively? And then you can troubleshoot from there. There is a great book that I read. It's called Traction. It's by Gino Wickman, and he talks about employees and how to kind of objectively gauge people. Right. And some of these things and he has really three criteria. Do they get it? Do they want it and are they capable of doing it? And you can just kind of put a plus or a minus between each of those. And if you get somebody that doesn't get it, they don't want it and they're not capable of doing it, you got the wrong person there. And like what you were talking about earlier, that was what the non regrettable exit. Right. Or non non regrettable turnover.
[00:22:15.290] - Janet
[00:22:16.290] - Chris
But if you get somebody that maybe they've got two of the three and you just need to tweak one of those with maybe a little more training or whatever, that's a great way to keep them on board. Well, is there anything else, Janet, you would like to add about making sure that a manager is providing a great employee experience?
[00:22:35.730] - Janet
I think understanding that a manager's responsibility is both listening and providing support and providing direction. And so think of those as three different pillars. And every one of your employees is going to have different volume of need in each one of those. So it could be that if you have somebody that's excelling, you're spending more time listening, maybe a little bit of time supporting. But you're not doing any directing. If you have somebody that's brand new to the organization Then it's going to tilt to the other side. That employee needs more direction, more coaching and probably less time listening. If you think of those three things and just make sure that you are providing the right recipe or formula and be thoughtful and intentional Then you're going to start to build that trusted relationship which in turn creates a great employee experience.
[00:23:34.050] - Chris
Okay. Listening, supporting, directing. And what you're saying is directing early on in the relationship, in employment with the company, you're going to spend more time there may be less time listening but then as the ten year grows, It switches right to listening, being more right. So you're going to be listening to their ideas and listening to their challenges. That type of thing. That's really good and then support I would just assume you're always going to.
[00:23:59.140] - Janet
Want to support right in the middle. Yeah, right.
[00:24:01.260] - Chris
Exactly. Right in the middle. But that shift between what's important really based upon how long with the company, it's really good. Well, Janet, we want to thank you for joining us today on great practices. This has been a very good conversation and just really good insight into what can we do to make the employee experience better and just being mindful of that as being a great manager. Now if people want to get a hold of you, what's the best way to get in touch with you if you want to discuss any of these ideas further or talk about any of these things?
[00:24:35.070] - Janet
Sure. Absolutely. Probably just a quick email to jthomas. At Mueller. M-U-E-L-L-E-R-W-P.
[00:24:44.290] - Chris
Okay, excellent. And I know that you're on the.
[00:24:46.110] - Janet
Line maybe put something about this interview in the subject line that would draw my eyes for sure but I'd be happy to discuss it further and I really appreciate the opportunity, Chris. Thank you.
[00:24:57.460] - Chris
Yeah. Great having you on and I assume that they can find you on LinkedIn as well.
[00:25:01.610] - Janet
Sure. Absolutely. Yes.
[00:25:03.350] - Chris
All right. Well, we appreciate your time today and we look forward to talking to you soon.
[00:25:08.150] - Janet
Thanks so much.