Revolutionising the relationship between employer and employee using cutting-edge HR technology is the aim of WorkJam, which has clients across the world in industries as diverse as financial services, healthcare and retail.
Mike Zorn is the Vice President of Human Resources, and it’s his job to work with companies to develop strategies to empower and engage their hourly workforce. Prior to WorkJam, Mike spent more than 30 years with retail giant Macy’s, including 15 years as the Senior Vice President of Associate and Labor Relations.
Tim Wheeler is the Vice President of Sales in Europe. An Australian, he’s worked across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific region. At WorkJam, he’s concentrating on workforce management and employee engagement.
It’s these topics that these two DEI experts have kindly agreed to discuss with Diversity Network.
Q: Recent research by Adecco suggests that the future of work means flexibility: more than half of employees want a hybrid workplace with more than 80 per cent of people reporting they feel as productive or more productive working partially at home rather than five days a week in the office. What are your predictions for the future of work?
MIKE ZORN: “Well, it’s a great question. You know, there are two workforces that we’re going to have to consider out there. The first is the office worker who can hybrid work or remote work. It’s kind of becoming the new normal, but it’s up in the air as to how it will impact the culture, diversity and inclusion.
“But there’s a whole huge segment of folks who don’t have the ability to work from home, who don’t have that hybrid option. And that’s really some of the frontline workers, whether it’s teachers or nurses or retail clerks.
“I think what we need to be thinking as employers and as advisors to employers is how do we bridge the gaps between both? How do we allow somebody who’s a retail clerk or a nurse to take a day off to have a mental health day but not lose pay? We need to make sure we’re giving them flexibility for their own mental health, for the customer’s benefit. Because if their mental health is good, then the customers will be treated better.
“In addition, I think when you look at a lot of what’s happening in the digital workplace, it’s making it a fairer and more inclusive workplace by allowing frontline workers to control their own schedules rather than having a manager assign them a schedule.
“Hybrid remote work is going to become the new normal but I can’t tell you right now what I think it will look like everywhere. It’s an emerging journey. I think all of us are learning as we go along. But I think it is the future.”
TIM WHEELER: “The future has to be very flexible, both from the employee and from the employer. And I think that crosses a number of different areas. Just for example, age, you know, we have a workforce, some of whom are Gen Z, some of whom are Millennials, all the way up to the Xs, and maybe even a few boomers in the workforce still, and we each like to communicate in different ways. And we like to give and receive information in different ways. And we have preferences about how we engage with our employer. So, flexibility is a great thing. If an employer can have a digital workplace that lets people choose their own manner of engaging and yet still get all of the best practices from the organization that they need, it’s much more inclusive.”
Q: What about the business case for inclusion?
TIM WHEELER: “That’s a really good question. I think a lot of people think of business case in terms of hard cash. And there is an absolutely fantastic business case for this solution. I’ll talk about that shortly. But I think what’s kind of unique about the WorkJam digital workplace is we deliver benefits in a very quantifiable way to the employer, but actually the employee as well, because we simplify ways to communicate. We make their life easier, we make their engagement something that they prefer and enjoy. So, it’s really a two-sided business case, two sides of the coin, which is not always the case with these sorts of solutions.
“But as far as the hard benefits go, which is very important to anyone considering an investment, we had a study done independently by Forrester. So you don’t need to take my word for it! It’s an independent document, a study called the Total Economic Impact Study, that was done to identify the specific benefits WorkJam offers. There are many, many hard and soft benefits.
“There are lots of savings to be made around employee turnover, and WorkJam can really reduce employee turnover. When you take a new employee on, we can be very efficient in that onboarding process, for example really ramp them up to a good skill level. Very quickly, we make it easy for staff to engage with each other so they can ask questions and get help. We really do make the employee experience better. There’s huge cost savings to be made, if you can keep your staff and keep your staff productive and onboard people more effectively and efficiently. We have a lot of savings in managerial time.
“We can help organisations communicate much more efficiently. The old ways of sending out emails from head office or a store manager chasing around, it can take a lot of managerial time. We can reduce the time spent by letting the system take a lot of that burden, whether it is communicating best practices, or changes in shifts.
“As well, we can make the employees more efficient at what they do. We can train them better, we can give them clearer, better instructions, we can give, for example, short videos that let them quickly watch something so they know that’s the best way to do this particular task, they know that’s the best practice.
“There’s another level to that efficiency. We bring together many different factors that used to be quite siloed and separate, for example, task management, executing tasks in the store, various communication methods and training methods. We can bring all of these things together and really orchestrate the experience that an employee has. We make them efficient in many different ways.
“There was also an item that the Forrester report found which is which is quite surprising to some people, which is we save an awful lot of money in just paper and ink. When you look at, for example, a retailer, it’s often the case that they have a printed book or laminated sheets around the place. Employees have to scramble around and find the book or the document, and whenever anything changes, it needs to be reprinted and updated. When we make things electronic, we can take away all of those hard costs in paper and ink and printers reprinting.
“Forrester, when they did this study, found that this was the best ROI solution they’d seen in decades. The studies showed that routinely, companies were getting a return for their investment in under six months. We were really outstanding in the value offered because we’re a solution that employees adopt and take through. It’s not a theoretical return on investment; in these tough economic times, people want a return on their investment in six months – and we have certainly achieved that.”
Q: What did the study find about the managerial results?
MIKE ZORN: “When employees are able to contribute, their engagement rises significantly. And one of the things that I think some of our customers have done phenomenally is give people surveys. So the CEO sends out a message, they send out a survey on top to be sure the individual has comprehended the information that was being shared to make sure people really think about it. And then oftentimes, they provide the ability for the employee to respond back or to share back their thoughts around some of those things, which it does a number of things. Number one, they’re getting the message exactly as it was intended to be delivered. But almost more importantly, they’re contributing back by sharing their feedback. And so often, we don’t have that ability, but through WorkJam, it’s a very simple process to go through.
“As Tim says, there’s two benefits with WorkJam: there’s hard costs, which is a paper and the reduction of the number of systems – one of our customers had 73 HR systems which we were able to bring it down to less than 20, and there’s a ton of savings on that.
“But I think more importantly, it’s that cultural building, that ability that we’re all in it together, particularly in tough times right now, that I think bond teams together. Those are the ones who are not losing people, those are the companies that are still retaining that top talent. And that’s what I think is some of the best biggest benefits from using our system.
“Now, one of the most important things when people go to join a company is culture, and what’s the impact of the culture. I think when a company can describe that they’re open, they’re transparent, they want employee feedback, they want to listen to workers, that creates a culture that really makes them attractive for somebody new to join, or for their top talent to stay.”
Q: WorkJam aims to revolutionize the relationship between employee and employer. Can you share a little bit more about how you’re achieving this?
TIM WHEELER: “It’s that concept of hearts and dollars together. So it’s both a solution for the business and for efficiency and operational effectiveness. But also something where people are really brought into a culture and made to feel a part of things.
“With a broad topic being diversity and inclusivity, if your systems are making sure that a diverse workforce can be catered for, if your systems are making sure that you’re inclusive in everything that you do, and if your systems are making sure that there’s fairness in everything you do, then you make the frontline employees feel appreciated and a part of the company and loyal to it in a way that they otherwise would not.
“Mike earlier touched on shifts – sharing shifts and handing out shifts – as an example from retail or from food and hospitality, also the oil industry, petrol stations – this is a really key matter. What we don’t want is shifts being given out by a manager to their favorite employer, offering the best shifts each and every week. You want an objective and a fair way of doing things. If a shift becomes free, you don’t want a person to say, ‘I’ll give that to you, because you did me a favor last week’. The fact that you can advertise digitally there’s a shift that has become available, whoever has the right skills and who is in the right location can put up their hand and say they’d like that shift. You’re enforcing fairness and objectivity.
“We all know about conscious biases that people have, and the possibility of unconscious biases. It’s all taken away if you have a system that is fair and transparent and open in how it operates. We give a great connection between the employee and their employer, and simplify something that’s multifaceted.
“If I come and work for a company, it’s not a relationship with the company as a unitary entity. Actually, there are many different groups and many different people that I need to communicate with and be a part of, in order to be effective at my job. It can get quite complex, these different groups according to geographical area or for those with the same function in your company. What you need is a good system in place that can simplify everything, and make sure every employee is getting the information that they need, when they need, in a simple way, rather than having to search around and remember the many different places to go for information and help. Simplifying things is a part of what we do.
“The other thing that we do is we give a great mobility to people. Because you have better access to training material or best practices, because we have things like badges, we reward people for things that they do. And we can track great performance, there’s a real upward mobility and a fair and objective, upward mobility that’s inherent to the system. We bring simplicity, we bring fairness, and we bring a great culture and the opportunity for an organization to really propagate its culture to its employees.”
Q: What do you think, Mike? Is it fairness essential for a good company culture?
MIKE ZORN: “Tim stated it nicely. And just to add, we have channel messages we can provide where you can do a diversity inclusion workshop just off of WorkJam. The channel messaging that we have the capability for allows people to talk in a safe place together and learn about differences. It’s so important how we merge that all together to create that culture. I think it’s going to be critically important in the next few years for companies to succeed.
“The channel messages are a way to share with your team what KPIs are important in this process. Diversity and inclusion a number of years ago was done for the right reasons but without a lot of measurements attached to it. WorkJam has got leaderboards and reporting, and we’ve got a number of things on top of it to so a company can insert purposeful goals around diversity and inclusion, and provide those to managers and everybody in the company.
“Real time messages are important, but so are other more cumbersome administration tasks, for example, policies that need to be signed off by everybody, that can be managed through the module.”
Q: Is the workplace doing enough to drive diversity in 2021? Are there any companies in the sectors that you work in that are leading the way in DNI?
MIKE ZORN: “I think we have three companies that jump off the board. And this isn’t to exclude others, because everybody is trying to make an effort.
“If you look at Woolworths in Australia, they have done some really amazing things with DEI, such as getting information out, sharing information and training.
“I think Ulta Beauty in North America has done a remarkable job around this. Using short videos to get their messages across has been very useful. And then I think Shell oil throughout the world has taken some major steps.
“What those three companies have done is be very purposeful about what they’re doing. To be very thoughtful about DEI, and about sharing that information.
“I think everybody’s hearts are in the right place. But companies need the tools and the ability to run DEI programmes purposefully.”
TIM WHEELER: “I’d like to elaborate a little on Ulta Beauty. The CEO told me a story about the amazing effect of connectedness within the company. She started doing regular video updates during the pandemic, for employees to watch live but also to watch at any time. And when the time came for her to go out to stores, she’d have 17-year-old employees coming up to her and speaking to her by her first name, saying ‘Hi, we heard your messages, we are really excited about being part of the company.’ Communicating with her as if they were long lost school friends. The CEO felt a connectedness between her, the employees and the company culture. The fact that she had a close relationship with employees who she’d never met was just a wonderful thing and it really surprised her. CEOs I guess can often feel a little remote from the frontline and what we at WorkJam want to do is to bring that closeness to the relationship in a good way.”
Q: What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
TIM WHEELER: “Making sure that there’s real fairness, and we don’t consciously or unconsciously have unfairness in our behaviors. If a system can drive that objectivity and that fairness, then it’s easy for everyone. It’s easy for managers because there aren’t suspicions that they’re not doing the right thing; it’s easier for employees because they know there’s not subjectivity, but everything’s very transparent and clear, and objective. If you want true inclusivity, if you want a diverse range of views, you’ve got to have systems and structures that allow you to get those views and opinions in an anonymous way.”
MIKE ZORN: “Diversity and inclusion is the lifeblood of a company. Companies can’t afford to ignore that we’re a global world made up of lots of different people with lots of data, ideas, lots of different thoughts. As a society, we have got to embrace it.
“We’ve all seen some things happen over the last couple of years that I don’t think any of us are proud of as a society. People are different, but we all have a lot of the same interests.
“More and more, employers and employees are very curious about the culture of a company, very curious about our openness, and the various diverse groups that are out there. Having a strong and purposeful diversity and inclusion policy has got to be the lifeblood of how companies survive going forward. I have interviewed thousands of people and ten years ago you didn’t hear any questions about company culture. But now everybody we interview, it comes up as part of the conversation.”
DIVERSITY NETWORK: That’s a great place to finish. Thank you both very much for sharing your insights with us, Mike Zorn and Tim Wheeler of WorkJam.