Terminal Value

COVID Dynamics for Employers and Job Seekers

Doug Utberg

Business Growth Authority | Technology Strategy & Resourcing | Cost Optimization Expert | Business Process Architect | Financial Strategist | Founder - Terminal Value Podcast

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I’d like to welcome Brandon Laws to the show today. Brandon is actually the Senior Director of Marketing. That senior part is really important.

So Important.

It’s so important.

Don’t forget

For the viewers at home, Brandon, I have known each other for a really, really long time. I originally got him into into authors like Tony Robbins and Napoleon Hill, and, you know, got them turn them into econ dork, just like me.


Brandon and I are here to talk about is the dynamics of COVID for both job seekers and employers, because it’s really kind of throwing everybody’s life into a tornado.


And I think a lot of people are kind of grasping trying to figure out what to do. So Brandon, can I take it away.

Well, I appreciate you having me on. Glad to be on your, your podcast. I I’ve been working in the HR space for 12 years now in a marketing role.

It’s been that long?

It’s been well October’s 12 years. Yeah, I started in 2008, when, when everything was kind of hitting the fan, with the Great Recession and so.

I said everything hit the fan.

Right, right. And then and then it’s happening again, and I’m sort of seeing this play out in more of a senior role, like, I’m looking at it from what’s important to employers right now, what’s important to employees.


And we’re trying to kind of bridge that gap, because it’s really chaotic. Employers are scared employees don’t know if they’re gonna have jobs. It’s, it’s an interesting time right now, to say the least.

Well I mean yeah, let’s start from the employer perspective. Because, yeah, because of course, right. You know, the, I think a lot of people who listening will be will be employees, but I don’t know, a lot of people listening will be senior decision makers also. So to from an employer perspective, what are what are a lot of people seeing kind of what are they? What’s going on? What are their what are the dynamics? Because, of course, it all flows downhill. Because if employers can’t make it, then that means you have less employment, which we’ve seen.


And you know, we’re actually have to figure out how are we going to go back to getting all these people who are sitting on the sidelines to be able to do something productive?

Yeah, I think there’s a challenge for employers right now is that there’s so much uncertainty, I think, when when COVID hit, gosh, it’s been what Martin mid March, most employers made the decision to switch remote if they could, and then others, you know, might not have that opportunity to go remote. So they’re still like trying to make it safe. So there’s just so many weird dynamics that are playing out. So if you’re shifting to remote, now, all of a sudden, you need to have it staff to be able to support remote work, well, then that brings up a whole different can of worms with leadership, right? Like, how do you lead people from remote, make sure they’re productive and doing what they’re supposed to be doing? And not like doing the dishes? You know what I mean? Like, it’s so easy at home, there’s so many distractions? So

I think, leading people, the uncertainty of will we be able to go back to the office as we as we know, it will be forever changed? Will our expenses be? Where our are going to be? We basically going to be paying not only for remote work, but are we going to be paying for an empty office, like there’s just so many things playing out, and then you have this whole legal component to. And I think that’s where employers are really confused is, the states are getting involved.

We’re in Oregon, and it’s pretty locked down. And we our kids aren’t even in school. At one point you know.

And that’s been amazing.

That’s been amazing. In that that’s a whole other dynamic, too. It’s like, okay, and I’m working. But yet, then you have kids to worry about and you’re trying to do home schooling. Right. So I think for on the employer side, there’s so much to think about, I mean, they just want to keep their doors open and stay profitable.


And, and the employees are worried as well, they want to make sure they have a job to come to. And yes, there’s a lot playing out right now.

And I mean, it’s and I just keep thinking, you know, just the level of anxiety that everybody’s carrying around, you know, because I know that every now and then somebody I know will will say or do something just really outlandish. And as much as possible. I try not to react because I’m like, okay, just for the amount of anxiety that’s in everybody’s heads.


You figure at least once or twice per month, you’re going to lash out in some completely irrational way for something that is not meaningful at all. And that’s really just normal for the amount of just uncertainty and anxiety that’s swirling around.

Yeah, and I’m glad you brought that up too, because I think one thing that employers if they’re not already worried about, but they will worry about long term is the health of their, their people.


So you need a happy and healthy workforce, in order to be productive to make profit, it all goes downstream. But now you have this weird dynamic where you’re stuck in your house. And there’s nothing to really look forward to. And so the mental health of your people is something to worry about. So I think you’re gonna see a lot kind of play out in the next six months to a year.


About employers getting really involved in the mental health of their people. So.

Well, I mean, I think that’s, you know, I know this, you and I have had this conversation before.


But I think that’s actually something that’s really long overdue and coming is that, you know, there’s, there’s kind of been in this mindset that, okay, you know, your work, your work, and your wife’s your wife, and the two don’t have anything to do with one another.

Those are gone.

Yeah, those days are gone. And so I think that if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna have a productive workforce, that’s able to get things done, and even a reasonable level, you’re gonna have to really start looking after people’s you know the larger context of their lives? Otherwise, they’re just gonna, their mental health just gonna start going downhill and.


I got, yeah, you know, you might get them to send some emails or you log into a couple of meetings, but you’re not going to get their best.

No, you’re not well, and the other thing I always think about when it comes to workplaces is if you have a good culture and great team engagement.


I mean, the more you work on that, the happier your people are going to be that kind of friends at work, the more productive they have good communication, well, now you go remote, and this team dynamics are sort of split in half.


And so I worry about that, too, is like how do you create engagement in the workplace? It’s, it’s challenging right now.

Yeah, no, totally, totally. All right. Well, hey, let’s let’s flip the script and talk.


About this from an employer employee perspective, because, you know, a lot of employees are probably just utterly terrified that they’re going to lose their jobs. And for good reason, in a lot of cases.


Cuz it’s like, you’re even if you’re a senior person, even if you have a, quote, guaranteed, guaranteed job, I can guarantee you that if your company unit capacity, whatever, you lose money for long enough, there’s nobody’s jobs are guaranteed. I don’t care what the union contract says.

You have to.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety around employees right now. Because I think they’re having conversations with either their managers, or even maybe senior leaders are coming out and saying, hey, look, here’s where we’re at from a financial standpoint. And I think nowadays, employers have to be transparent about that stuff.”


To gain trust for their people. But I think there’s a lot of anxiety for that reason, they know in six months, if things aren’t changing, if there’s no demand for whatever widget we’re creating, or whatever service, we’re providing, that there’s going to be tough decisions to be made in that amount of time. And I think we have this nice buffer from the federal government, you know, with the cares act back and that, but that stuff’s expired.


And I think in Oregon, we might have a little buffer with, I want to say it’s like 300 a week.


In addition to the unemployment. But that’s not enough to live on, and so on.

No it’s not.

So I think if people are like, Oh, my jobs on the line, what’s, what’s their safety net at this point?


I think I saw an article that was actually really disturbing. I think it was something on the on the lines of three out of 10 households had burned through all their savings during COVID.


And yeah.

That I mean, and of course, that’s going to be principally Yeah, that’s principally going to be weighted on your you know, your lower end of your socio demographic scale, who are households that don’t tend to have a lot of savings in the first place. But still, that’s a lot. That’s a lot. And where’s the recovery for that?


Like we employees? there, there’s the future so much more uncertain, I think, for employees than it is for employers.


It’s like, when is life gonna get back to normal? We talked about kids, like you’re trying to balance those two things. I just, I want to know how all this plays out?

Well, especially because it’s like, an ethic. What about somebody who’s trying to start a career like I remember, you know, you dropped into your career career right at the beginning of the Great Recession?


And but like, what about somebody coming out of college? They’d be like, Okay, well, so am I going to be able to find a grown up job? Am I going to be able to do grow? Am I going to be able to start doing adulting kind of stuff like, you know, paying rent owning a house?

You know, I would, I would say most people wouldn’t have this opinion. But I’d say coming into the workforce at a recessionary period is good learning experience. I mean, most people if they’re hopefully if they To share their finances, they wouldn’t have a ton of burden.


Like there’s no not a lot of deaths besides school loans, which you could probably defer those or something. But there’s not a lot of expenses.

People come out of school with loans. What?

Yeah, right. I think we I didn’t. So like when I came into the workplace or the workforce in 2008, I was sort of like naïve, I didn’t know really, I knew what was happening. But I wasn’t like worried about for my job all the time. But you take a season person.


15 years on the job or something, they got a family, they got a mortgage, they got car payments. You, you problem, some anxiety their way for sure and.

Well, that’s it, you start getting people who depend on you. Because, yeah, I think I had the same story as you but I came in to the workforce in 2001. I was right when the tech wreck was happening. And I was in the technology industry. So right in the middle of the tech wreck.

Yeah, that’s an incredible time. And you were working for a tech firm at that that point.

Everything was…

Insane. Yeah, we’re and we’re seeing all that play out now. So I yeah, I think, you know, just the employment dynamics, I think you’re going to see employers really take a leading role they’re going to get out in front.


And be transparent with their people. I think if they’re a good employer, they will do that. Even if it makes them a little anxious. I think it’s better than people making up stories in their head. Because I think what happens is, if an employer is not out front saying, Here’s where our finances are, here’s what our employment statuses as far as our hiring.


Or wage freezes or anything like that. They’re not talking about that, employees will start making up stories in their head. And then they’ll start talking with each other. And now due to social media, they can talk virtually, and it’s just it’s whole can of worms. So I would encourage employers who are listening just to be upfront with your people, they’re adults, they can they can handle it. And if they can’t.

Yeah, totally.

Taken up individually.

Just thinking, your conversation made me think of a talk I was having with a friend of mine, who’s a recruiter a couple weeks ago, where she was talking with a woman, you know, she’s talking with an employer about a role they were opening. And so she asked for normal questions. You could Okay, why would somebody want to come work for you? And they go, Oh, wait, is that still a thing?


Like wow, okay.


That’s one way to go with it.

Right. Yeah. I mean, the that part, the interviewing and just the dynamics of like, why would somebody want to come work for you in the culture? Like, there’s just, there’s so much that’s new to people.


I think, on the interviewing side, on the recruiting side, like, I don’t even know how you do these, these video interviews. And I mean, it’s just the questions you’re asking are a lot different now.

And the video interviewing It’s so weird, too, because a lot of times, what you’ll do is you’ll get a link, and you’ll have to record a response, like a two to three minute response with nobody on the other end. And so you have no clue at all, whether what you’re saying is resonating. You can’t read the room, you can’t kind of have any back and forth, you just basically have to do a straight monologue and hope that what you’re saying kind of attaches something that’s, that’s important.

So they’ll ask a question, and then you’ll record your response.


And it goes out into Do you see the other people or?


Or like whoever’s interviewing you?

A lot of times yeah you but what you’ll do is, and you’ll see the person you’ll see the person’s face that pops up and asks a question.


Doug: But then you just have to record your response. And usually you have two or three shots, and then that’s it. You, you send it off.

That is, I would hope to, most employers are not doing that type of interview. I mean, this kind of interview, this is where it gets the nuances of.


Behavior. And if somebody’s scripting a response like that, I just don’t know if you’re gonna get the best out of people and figure out if they’re a good fit or not.

Exactly, exactly.

It’s bizarre. It sounds like you’ve gone through this before.

Yes. Yeah. Well, and because yeah, I’ve thought, you know, I’ve experienced it in my wife’s experience that it’s just such a weird experience.

Yeah. Yeah. I think like, do you? I’m gonna I know you’re interviewing me. But I like we’re having a discussion. Do you anticipate things being just completely different going forward? Meaning like, yeah, this is a period of time where we’re in COVID. We’re in a lot of virtual stuff.


But do you think it’s forever changed? Like we do meetings? It’s right now. We’re not like gonna go fly to Texas, to do a meeting. We’re gonna do it via zoom with a group of people.

Yeah. Well, I think that, you know, if, you know, if I were the one who is putting a team together and kind of the post COVID environment, so like, you know, let’s, you know, was I think, a mailer that went out for my kids school said that they were going to be working that they were going to be in remote school until at least the middle of November. So let’s just assume that something happens in November that makes everybody okay with everything and they decide the world who actually knows.

The election.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not going to go there. But let’s just assume something in November happens, people decide that everything is okay now. Well, so you know, if I was going to be figuring out what I think a team interaction would look like, I’d say, Okay, well, I think that forcing everybody to come to the same location every day is kind of silly.


On the other hand, I think that you miss something, if you have everybody in zoom all the time, right. So the way, the way that I would want to do it would be to say, Okay, let’s just basically go virtual two to three weeks out of the month, and then get everybody together one week out of the month. Because if you plan what you’re doing, concentrate your time, and get everybody in one room for a small amount of time, and then have everybody go back and break, you can still get the collaboration, you can still build.


And write relationships. but you’re not forcing people to sit in 45 minutes of traffic each way every day.

So I love that approach. Because I think you and I have an exchange on LinkedIn, remember Cal Newport’s book, deep work.


It’s to me, you do that type of setup at work, where you might have in person


And you know, this means a little bit of lost productivity, because of just the banter and the normal niceties and all that stuff. You’re just gonna naturally lose that. But the social dynamic of the team more cohesive, you were just the nuance of speech, it just is better in person.


And then when you go back to a remote work, people can be hyper focused, they know what their roles and responsibilities are.


And they can still communicate effectively, remotely. I think the companies that figure that out, will win in the end.

Precisely. Well, and also because you know, you were talking about, how do you make sure somebody is actually working. I think that a lot of people underestimate how much real work gets done in an eight hour period. So you could have somebody who’s at the office for eight hours, in all likelihood, you’re probably not getting more than about three, maybe four hours of really, really productive work. And so if you can amp that up to six, and they still get a couple of hours for mental health, that’s still a 50% increase in net real productivity. You know, I think a lot of people need to get out of the, the the clock hours mentality.

Oh yeah.

And get into how much real productive work is being done. Because it’s usually not nearly as much as people think.

And I think people leading these companies were really good people, leaders, they would really understand that it’s about results and not but in the seat.


And this is the the zoom stuff. And the remote work is really forced us to think that way. It’s like, you know, what, I don’t really care how much they’re logging in and what their timecard says, or whatever, it’s, it’s about, what are they producing? For me?


What are we seeing the results?


That’s hard to see a shift.

Rule number one, you get paid for results, not effort.

That’s entrepreneur, you would be surprised, like, how many managers and leaders micromanage that time part of it. And it’s bizarre to me.

Well, it might, it’s because time feels more, especially anything where you have a lot of time. Yeah, it’s it your time feels like something you can control or something that’s that’s kind of that’s influenceable, whereas you’re saying, okay, you know, I want to manage somebody closing an account that has a six month sales cycle. You know, that’s, that’s really hard to manage on a day to day basis.

That is true. Yeah, that’s a really good point.

Well, alright, so hey, Brandon, let’s, let’s wrap it up for people or, or maybe, I don’t know, maybe we’ll go off on another tangent. But, what’s that? What can people do? How can they improve their situation?

I think for the the situation right now, especially going forward, this is always going to be a problem, like, you need to develop good communication tactics with the people.


Leaders need to, they need to have trust in each other. So, you know, there’s, there’s things that are really good about like doing little breakouts with, with leaders to gain trust and to get to know each other at a deeper level, build empathy for each other, because then when you’re running a company, and you’re, and you’re communicating with your contributor, level employees, all of that runs through, it’s like, it’s a very systemic situation.

So I’d say, have a lot of opportunity to talk at a deep level with your leaders, your employees be transparent. I mean, all of those things are communication based. I think that’s what’s gonna help long term with for employees, employers.

Absolutely well. And you know, if somebody is on the employee side, what do you think they can do to really make a difference?

They need the opportunity, I think, I mean, especially leaders, like I said, but like I think employees, they need those opportunities to, to have open conversations with their managers about what they can do to contribute at a high level.


And without those opportunities, employees don’t really have a lot of control. But, you know, I think if I can impose my will on an employee, I’d say, read, read as much as you possibly can.


Work as hard as you possibly can take on more projects than you normally would say yes to just about everything. And in that way, you’re kind of irreplaceable. You’re that linchpin inside of the organization .


Where you’re, you’re not going to be replaced. So you look, you won’t be the first to go because you’re producing the results.


So if employees are listening, that’s what I would say is, you’re not doing anything at home right now. You might be you might be homeschooling your kids. I mean, I am in between work, but I’m here to I’m here to produce results. I’m here, I have nothing else going on.

Absolutely. Well hey, I appreciate you taking the time, Brandon.


And appreciate you listening. Following up on that conversation with Brandon, one of the things that really stuck out to me, as we were ending the conversation is the importance of leadership in a time like COVID. I think

it’s really easy if you’re in charge of an organization to kind of just sort of hope that things get better or hope that things go back to normal. But in a lot of cases, you have to make a lot of really tough decisions. And a lot of times that’s what leadership is about.

And it can be especially tough decisions when you have to decide, okay, when do you have to let people go? Who do you let go? How do you do that? And these are the types of decisions where we really need leaders to step up to the plate. And actually, one of the things that I do my my business is to help leaders with that the way that I help is through helping them optimize their costs. So my businesses with a company call it expense reduction analysts and I am a cost optimization consultant. And so I work on a success fee basis, which means that my clients don’t pay anything, unless I can find them savings. So that means the worst case situation will be that I will come into your business or nonprofit, do an assessment and say that you are getting the best in class, cost, purchasing process everything across the board. The reason why I say that’s the worst case is because if that’s the case, then I can’t help make your P&L any better. But that’s still not bad. Because if that situation happens, then I won’t invoice you for anything. So I would love to talk with you about how I can come and help find the savings that can be used to invest in growth, or to acquire key skill sets, or to avoid layoffs. So please schedule some time with me, I go to www.meetdoug.biz, that is meet Doug dot biz that will take you to my calendly link and you’ll have a chance to put some time on my calendar. Or alternatively, if there’s a topic you’d really like to talk about on this podcast, go to that same link that’s www.meetdoug.biz, and let’s do a podcast interview. The purpose of this podcast is to bring ideas to people that are flown over by the mainstream media. There’s so much complexity and there’s just so much flavor to life, that just doesn’t get reflected in the corporate media that I really want to bring that to people. And I would love for you to be a part of helping me do that. Thank you very much and I’m looking forward to talking.

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