Breathing Life Into The Employee Experience

Listen to What Culture Could Be, a Kazoo Podcast

Employees seem to build two personalities:
the person they are at home and who they are at work.  

From an HR and supervisor leader perspective, we have to get a bit more intimate with our teams; engaging in more meaningful conversations with them around the work and what their needs are and taking the time to listen.

Every single day, people walk into their offices, their places of business, and have a vastly different experience within their work environment than they do outside their work environment.

— John Sigmon, Founder and CEO, Sigmon Leadership Solutions

There are so many things an organization can do to make the transition less abrupt.

In a recent episode we chatted with John Sigmon, the Founder and CEO of Sigmon Leadership Solutions. He encourages business leaders to be aware of their external and internal message and “bring the outside in” as part of a mentality to engage employees more effectively.

The formula is: Listen + Ask = Engagement

Are your employees actively engaged in a mutual mission, one that blends together the company’s directive with that of employee’s own personal goals?

Or are they looking at work as a means to an end?

Listen to What Culture Could Be, a Kazoo Podcast

John tells us that breathing life back into the employee experience means recognizing the disparity that exists between your external life and what goes on inside the company.  

For example, employers will always say, “Employees are our greatest asset.” They’ll put it in their strategic plan or corporate documents. However, the “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to metrics.

Companies like Veritas Learning who see their employees as innovators — listening and taking ideas into account — are having great success with engagement.

Those organizations are going to make a difference and win in the future workforce. Those that refuse to acknowledge it or fail to change will fail.

Invest In Management

We’re not only talking about money. Although this is a great place to invest funds, expand the possibilities when considering the resources at your disposal.  

People are enamored with leadership development. However, while studies show that the 24-30 billion dollars we spend on leadership development has a nominal impact on our organization, employee engagement is an often free and proven way of profoundly impacting business success.

Listen to What Culture Could Be, a Kazoo podcast

Think of it in a more integrated way rather than something that’s carved out or special. You can build in a coaching-type conversation that is integrated into all the other things that you’re doing.

When John was asked about thought leaders that had led him and greatly impacted the manner in which he leads today, he immediately recalled two people who had a profound impact on him — Erma Hoffman and David Walker.  

While these two individuals stood out to John in unique ways, Erma for her graceful flexibility and David for his poise under pressure, both impacted his ability to be comfortable in his position, affected his development as an employee and future leader in positive ways, and served as a testament to what great managers can do in a business setting.

As a manager, John likes to focus on this key thing:

Imagine what this employee will be saying at dinner tonight to their family about this conversation you had with them.

No matter what the conversation, treating people with respect and dignity in a way that reveals empathy is very important.  

Reduce the Noise

In the absence of policy employees get to use judgement.

John recalled a position where they reduced the number of policies from 140 to 13. Expecting managers and employees to make judgement calls is sometimes difficult in a setting where we have so much to do, especially when people seem married to the certainty of following someone else’s policy.

It’s clearly a little extreme, but organizations should be looking at policies that exist within a box — a framework. Businesses should have policies that are:

  • Legally required or that protect us from some extraordinary legal risk.  
  • Ethically responsible.
  • Demanded by employees.

If they don’t fall into one of those three categories, John says you should get rid of them.

Expecting this level of decision making forces you into discussion, creating a more intimate environment where the manager and the employee talk about how the organization’s and individual’s needs align.

It also tends to lead to a setting where we listen to employees. Businesses can struggle to innovate because they’re locked in an “industrial production line” sort of mentality. The people who are your best innovators are often right down the hall. Allowing them some space shows that you’re treating them less like an expense item.

Listen to What Culture Could Be, a Kazoo podcast

John recommends an open line of communication where employees can give and receive feedback. Similar to many social media systems, it carries a lot of weight.

He says that this is very meaningful and sometimes frustrating, but it’s frustrating for the right reasons. Having the flexibility and platform to respond to employee feedback in real time is very difficult, but also very important for a dynamic work environment.

Finally, John talks about “Expanding the Possibilities.” The trust created in this new culture leads to an environment where binary decisions can be supplemented by creative additional options. It statistically improves their likelihood of success and draws from a culture that has a new and fresh breath of air.


This post is based on a podcast interview with John Sigmon, Founder and CEO of Sigmon Leadership Solutions. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to What Culture Could Be: Cracking the Company Culture Code.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can discover other listening options here.