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37. Creating Social Ties: The Key to Boosting Employee Productivity, According to Mark

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Podcast with Mark Hlady Part 2




Mark believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for deeper digital connections to create rich relationships, especially in the workplace. He stresses that businesses must be intentional in creating social ties through activities and games such as Triple Play. Mark suggests that remote work is becoming a significant part of our future work engagement, and companies must invest in culture-building activities to increase employee productivity. He highlights that employees who feel motivated and have strong social ties are 40% more productive, which can significantly impact a company's value.


[00:00:00] Andrew Liew Weida: This is very fascinating. So you don't see that government or nation would eventually create social housing to solve these needs, whereas you feel that this will continuously perpetuate over time. What are your thoughts on that Mark?

[00:00:15] Mark: I think that governments will create social housing but that's quite difficult to do. It will take a long time. As you do that, it won't be fully exhaustive in how it addresses the problem. It'll contribute a small portion. So I haven't looked at social housing in detail, but intuitively it's an important part of the solution. But also intuitively it's limited in the scale that it can reach.

[00:00:35] Andrew Liew Weida: I see. So coming back to the second question you discovered or you found that triple play because you wanted to solve this problem about true activities, people build better connections, which is accentuated by housing or space constraint. Do you think that COVID 19 has further accentuate the need for deeper activities through digital connections. Yeah. What are your thoughts on this, mark?

[00:01:01] Mark: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was true I'll describe that in a bit more detail now. So one of the important points to clarify is that relationships in physical space are also very important. And so I recommend as people can join a local sports team, get into climbing or whatever sport they're into. Of course your family your loved ones, you also want them in physical proximity to, to the case that you can.

[00:01:26] Mark: And I think that families and sports teams and these locals communities are incredibly important and in, incredibly important for a rich life. And so I don't imagine a future where people are living. In isolation or in their homes just logging onto the internet. I imagine most of physical life and most of life continuing to be with people that are near you.

[00:01:44] Mark: However, a huge, important portion of life will also be the exchange of ideas and maybe finding people that are similar to you. For people who don't feel like there's people similar to them, maybe in their small town. And I think for all of us in some areas, there'll be a lot of value in connecting with people across geographies, through something like Triple Play.

[00:02:01] Andrew Liew Weida: Okay. So I remember you mentioned about doing digital strategy work before and after Covid 19. How has Covid 19 actually changed digital transformation and how does it also changed the way we work? What do you think, mark?

[00:02:14] Mark: Good question. And I think to get into that I'll go back to one of your other questions here on what to think about in digital transformations and then. I'll talk to that first and then come to the impact of Covid 19.

[00:02:26] Andrew Liew Weida: Yes, please.

[00:02:27] Mark: I think it's important to realize that digital transformations have always been going on and to a large extent do shape the world and have always shaped companies. They've been called different things over time, but technology's always been driving business fundamentally and shaping society fundamentally. And so when you have an existing business, as technology is changing you don't have a choice to not transform . You ought to transform. And indeed, you need to transform in order to continue to have a business. And so the need to do a digital transformation is paramount.

[00:02:56] Mark: Now, I think that's the first thing companies need to internalize. Not everyone does, but I think most do at this point. Then once you realize you're doing a digital transformation, the most important thing to do is to think from first principles about the digital transformation holistically.

[00:03:09] Mark: It's different in every business, but one way to think about it is: a business might have 90% of the activities they do that are done by other businesses such as payroll, hiring, so forth and so on, selling. And when you're doing something that's done by a lot of other businesses, you have the option to either build that technology yourself or to buy that technology.

[00:03:31] Mark: And so you want to often buy the technology so that other businesses are also using. And so that would be something like if you're a merchant using Shopify instead of building your own website from scratch, or if you're a business that's remote using triple play instead of building your own social fabric software by scratch. However, at the same time, there are few points in every business that will really differentiate that business. And for your point, for your one or two points, you wanna figure out what those are, then maybe build those yourself or get a customized version of software for that piece of the business that's gonna really make you different.

[00:04:05] Mark: So that's how I would think about digital transformations overall, is just knowing that all businesses are gonna need to be transformed. And then thinking through, not just doing it one off, but thinking through what are the areas that I need to transform? What technology exists that I can just plug in, and what areas do I want to really focus on building something new in?

[00:04:25] Mark: So then as Covid happened, I think the principles stayed the same, but one big change impacted everybody, which was now employees wanted to work remote, and when employees wanted to work remote, it helped alleviate a lot of struggles around office space, but likely principally commuting. and employees started to see that with a lot more time in life, maybe more comfortable situations, again, back to house pricing.

[00:04:49] Mark: You can live where you want to live, be around people that you choose when you're working remote. And so employees really enjoyed this, where they could, however, the biggest thing they started to miss was the social fabric that an office had created. And going back to the beginning, just knowing how important relationships are: the relationships you have at work are also very important for a sense of meaning, for a sense of contribution, for a reminder on alignment around values.

[00:05:11] Mark: And as soon as you're outta the office, people didn't have the norms to build these relationships. And so what started to happen was people were able, luckily, to rely on the relationships that they did have, but after, say 12 months, the relationships that they did have maybe were weakening because they weren't seeing people intentionally online through games and activities. And also when new people joined the company, they weren't able to fold themselves into the so of that company. And so probably the biggest challenge, and this is also why the timing for Triple Play is now, it's probably the biggest challenge, is how do you maintain a culture when people aren't able to act on the norms that they've grown up with in a physical office?

[00:05:49] Andrew Liew Weida: Yeah you just sounded there, how do people build a culture when the norm is built around the physical office? Because in the old days or before COVID 19 has essentially this typically people would see on the website, read the employee handbook, this is the culture, this is what is being done. When they actually go to the physical office, they start to see whether the leaders or the managers are living out what is being mentioned on the digital handbook or employee handbook or the contract. And this is being challenged given covid 19, or given that more and more people choose to work from home or because of the changes of this pandemic or even future changes.

[00:06:30] Andrew Liew Weida: Seems that work from home will be forming part of the hybrid working arrangement that we are seeing , and what do you see of that coming in the near five to 10 years time? What are your thoughts on that Mark?

[00:06:42] Mark: Yeah, you touched on a few interesting topics there.

[00:06:45] Mark: So the first is culture and how we define it.

[00:06:48] Mark: And I would say the employee handbook, having values articulated is important, but it's not enough!. So employees would read that handbook the first day, and it's important to see those values articulated. It's important to be able to go back to those values that are articulated if there's a point of disagreement, or to have them written down so you can continually rally around them.

[00:07:07] Mark: However, if you just write them down and don't do anything else, they won't shape culture themselves. . So having values written down is important, but not really what defines the culture. So I'd say what defines culture is how people act. That simple. And it's how people act towards each other, how they treat each other, and also how they act, what nobody else is looking.

[00:07:24] Mark: So are they reliable? Are they getting their work done? Are they doing the work to the best of their ability? And in the office there's a few points or I should say there were several points where you could observe culture. When you're sitting at your desks, you could see how other people are interacting with each other In the meeting, there'll be talked before and after.

[00:07:40] Mark: It's in the hallways at lunch. And so you start to see how do people interact with each. , are they curious? Are they helpful? And then also in a physical office, there's a certain, for better or worse visibility on when you show up. And so your bosses can see when do you get there? How much time are you putting in?

[00:07:56] Mark: And that's often a downside of physical space. Not that working hard is bad or being at the office a long time is necessarily bad. But what started to happen was that people felt obligated to be at the office maybe when they didn't have work to do, or maybe instead of the quality of their work being a judge on their quality of their work.

[00:08:14] Mark: It was how much time they were spending in front of their managers. And so having an office really does defined the culture, but sometimes in negative ways, for example, that's faced time over quality of work. And the leading companies were getting ahead of this already before the pandemic and saying that it's not about how long you're in the office, it's about the quality of your work, but still that unconscious bias that can occur when you're physically looking at people in the office.

[00:08:39] Mark: We actually have the opportunity to avoid some of that. Now that we are working principally remote, . So to summarize, a lot of culture was observed and built through the office. Now that we've moved remote, we have some new challenges to build culture. We also have some opportunities to get culture right, Hal, now that's the setting for Covid 19 and how it impacted culture.

[00:09:01] Mark: And now our companies have to be intentional. It's creating that space to form stronger social ties among. That's why we built Triple Play. So people fundamentally formed social ties through activities and games such as the ones that we have on Triple Play. And I'll talk about why that's important in a second .

[00:09:18] Andrew Liew Weida: Yeah I really like the fact that you mentioned about discovering that because remote work or work from home is gonna form a major part of our future work engagement and physical office is no longer defining the culture and therefore using triple play is to allow people to build a new culture or social ties through gaming or other activities.

[00:09:41] Andrew Liew Weida: Now the interesting question here is, There could be another school of thought in which that we should not be defined work by what's the FaceTime or the physical amount of attendance, but the quality of work. And yet where we introduce activities, online activities like gaming to promote social clients. Wouldn't some of the managers hold a skeptic hats or devils advocate to say, Hey, isn't this game activity is actually increasing the more digital engagement for employees and therefore they don't actually do their work or their loss engagement in their work, and therefore they focus on gaming? What are your thoughts on that?

[00:10:16] Mark: You'd have to be pretty skeptical to believe that. But of course, it's industry by industry, so we're principally focused on industries with knowledge workers. And so for example, that's creatives like designers, that's consultants, that's developers and several other professions.

[00:10:32] Mark: And in each of these professions, every individual there is making creative decisions. And the quality of those creative decisions can impact the company's value by hundreds of millions of dollars. So it's backed up in a lot of research and there's different numbers out there, but consensus is somewhere around employees who feel motivated and have strong social ties.

[00:10:53] Mark: I.E. Employees that are engaged are 40% more productive. And so if you look at a company. That's maybe a hundred million in revenue. And you imagine plus or minus 40% on productivity, that's 40 million annually, and that's the upside of having stronger social ties. And so that's the upside of being intentional about culture.

[00:11:12] Mark: So that's the upside about making time for your employees to, to play games with each other and see the humans behind the workers. Without that, it's very easy to see your employees as one dimensional when they're sitting on mute. Or just transacting in meetings. So the ultimate trade off that you're making is, do you want to give up one hour of work time to get 40% more of value?

[00:11:35] Mark: And of course you would say yes.