How To Retain Top Talent While Prioritizing Their Quality Of Life

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Marketing Podcast with Joe Mull

Joe Mull, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Joe Mull. He is the founder of the BossBetter Leadership Academy and hosts the popular BossBetter Now Podcast, which was recently named by SHRM as a “can’t miss show for leaders” along with podcasts from Brené Brown and Harvard Business Review.

He is the author of 3 books including his newly released Employalty: How to Ignite Commitment and Keep Top Talent in the New Age of Work, a framework for creating an employee experience that leads people to join a company, stay long term, and do a great job. This book will teach you how to attract and retain talent and turn ordinary people into devoted employees.

Key Takeaway:

Employalty emphasizes the idea of attracting and retaining top talent by creating a more humane employee experience that focuses on their quality of life. The goal is to create an environment that recognizes employees’ individual needs and allows for a better work-life balance. Companies should become a destination workplace and for this, they should win in three areas of the employee experience: an ideal job, meaningful work, and becoming a great boss.

Questions I ask Joe Mull:

  • [01:55] What were you hoping to add to the topics of hiring and quitting with this book?
  • [04:00] Employalty sounds about employee loyalty, but that’s not what it is. What is Employalty?
  • [04:55] Gen Z wants different things in work, can you explain the “myth of lazy”?
  • [07:31] How do leaders and business owners turn their company into what you call a Destination Workplace?
  • [11:52] You say that every employee in every company has an internal scorecard that determines whether they stay long-term and commit to their work. Please explain that idea.
  • [12:58] Can you elaborate on the phrase: “the era of hiring the best person for the job is over”.
  • [18:08] Where do diversity, equity, and inclusion, you know, initiatives fit into the idea of Employalty?
  • [20:09] Where’s AI going to fit in the destination workplace?

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(01:03): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Joe Mull. He's the founder, the boss, better Leadership Academy, and the host of the Boss Bette Now podcast, which was recently named by SHRM as a “can’t miss show for leaders” along with podcasts from Brene Brown and Harvard Business Review. He's the author of three books, including one we're gonna talk about today. And I'm gonna stumble over this word every time cuz it's a made up word. It's awesome, Employalty. It's a mouthful. How to Ignite Commitment and Keep Top Talent in the New Age of Work. So Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Mull (01:44): Thank you John, and you nailed the title my friend. I've gotten a lot of different iterations of that. And you were pitch perfect. It's Imploy. .

John Jantsch (01:52): Awesome. So obviously the topic of hiring and quitting and , you know, whatever you wanna call it, is high on people's minds right now. So what were you hoping to maybe kind of tap into current wise with this book?

Joe Mull (02:10): Well, this book was really born after I continued to get frustrated with some of the dialogue that was taking place around why it was so, so hard to find people in the aftermath of the pandemic, why it was so hard to get people to stay with an organization and why so many people were actively changing jobs.

(02:27): There's this narrative that's been taking place that, you know, nobody wants to work anymore or that this is really a generational issue and we have a ton of data that tells us that it's not true. Yeah. What we've been calling the Great Resignation, it actually has been going on for about 13 years. When you look at the number of people who have been voluntarily changing jobs to take better jobs. Yeah. We know a lot of that is being driven by quality of life and that's really at the heart of what this book's about.

John Jantsch (02:53): Yeah. , it's become sort of a joke, you know, it seems like every episode I do lately, I go, well, don't wanna blame this on the Pandemic, but , it's like, but it's so easy. I mean, I think a lot of what happened in the Pandemic is it just accelerated everything, didn't it? Like you talked about, this has been going on for a long time and now a whole swath of people woke up and said, you know, life sucks. My job can't suck too. Right,

Joe Mull (03:17): That's exactly right. There was a sort of values reshuffling that took place. Yeah. And then if you think about it, the covid didn't cause the covid, I just called it the Covid Covid.

John Jantsch (03:27): It's like the Google was That's the Google, isn't it?

Joe Mull (03:29): Yeah, the Google. Yeah. You know what Covid did do to the workforce is it made everybody braver.

(03:34): Right? Prior to the pandemic a, a major job change was a major life decision. You'd weigh the pros and cons and talk to people in your network, and then the pandemic arrived and it injected so much instability and uncertainty into the job market for so many people who then lived with that for two years. And so our risk aversion to job changes got obliterated by this massive global happening. So now it's not such a big deal to think about a change.

John Jantsch (04:00): Yeah. So the title, which apparently I nailed loyalty, you know, has the word loyal, sort of right smack in the middle of it. And just because you have told me differently, well that's not really what this book's about, is it? I mean, because it, you read that in the first glance, you might think employee loyalty, I get it. Mash those together. Right?

(04:21): But you're not talking about that at all, are you?

Joe Mull (04:23): No. We're playing a little bit of a trick on the reader here. Right? You hear, you see the word and you think employee loyalty, but employalty is actually a port man toe of the words employer loyalty and humanity. Yeah. So employalty is the commitment that employers make to a more humane employee experience because we know nowadays that's what triggers commitment at work.

John Jantsch (04:44): So, and we can't really even pick on millennials anymore, right? I mean, they're like old now

Joe Mull (04:49): So they're 40 now, John. That's right. Yeah, exactly.

John Jantsch (04:53): The oldest ones anyway of, you know, they want different things. The next generation, which I guess we're calling Gen Z now, you know, wants different things in work. And a lot of, you know, gray haired employers are, you know, interpreting that is, nobody likes to work, you know?

(05:07): Mm-hmm. the myth of lazy, I think you even called it. And it's really not that at all, is it?

Joe Mull (05:13): It's not. So we know that over the past two decades, the workforce on the whole, across every generation, has continued to endure a handful of burdens. The amount of work workloads have exploded in the past 20 years. Wages have been largely stagnant for nearly 40 years, up until about two years ago was the first time we started to see that number move.

(05:34): At the same time, burnout has become an all time high records in the workplace, even before the pandemic arrived. And so what we're seeing is people saying, I need a change. And those changes are being driven by quality of life. There's a, a massive recalibration taking place around how work fits into our lives. And there's more opportunity than ever before, John, because we keep adding so many jobs to the economy.

(05:56): And so right now there needs to be a mindset shift for folks who employ people. There is no staffing shortage, there's a great jobs shortage. There's more opportunity than ever before for people to go out and upgrade their work situation. And unless you decide to be the upgrade, you're gonna struggle to find and keep people

John Jantsch (06:16): You know, in the housing market, you talk about a seller's market, a buyer's market, and of course, you know, a lot of people are suggesting that, you know, the upper hand right now is with employees. And so a lot of employers are reacting to that. But is that, you know, are, is that just an ebb and flow thing? I mean, will that turn itself around?

Joe Mull (06:34): There's always gonna be a little bit of ebb and flow in terms of the demand for workers in the job market. But when you look at the numbers, we've added jobs to the economy at a a, a breakneck pace for almost 10 years straight, right?

(06:46): We still have right now nearly 10 mil million unfilled jobs. If you took every unemployed person in the country right now and gave them a job, you'd still have 5 million unfilled jobs tomorrow. And we expect worker shortages in a whole host of categories going forward for the next 10 years.

(07:02): So yes, you're gonna see ebbs and flow in terms of the economics and recessions and pay and demand, but the numbers game is not gonna change. We simply do not have enough people to do all the jobs that we've added to our eco our economy. So if you can be the upgrade, right? If you can be a destination workplace, you create an extraordinary competitive advantage for yourself, both in terms of attracting and retaining talent and the quality of the products and services your business delivers.

John Jantsch (07:30): So you mentioned a great phrase there, destination workplace. I'd love for you to kind of unpack like how does somebody turn their company into one of those? I mean, I think there's some obvious things, but there are probably some companies out there. The culture hasn't been that great, you know, and they're starting to realize sort of the price of that. You know, how do you turn that around?

Joe Mull (07:48): Well, we analyzed more than 200 research studies and articles on why people quit a job or take a new job or decide to stay with an employer. And we can say with conviction that you become a destination workplace if you win in three areas of the employee experience. In the book we call them ideal job, meaningful work, and great boss.

(08:09): Now, some of this sounds self-explanatory, right? Great boss is pretty clear. But there are a handful of things that we know bosses have to get right in order for someone to call them a great boss, like earning trust and coaching and being an advocate.

(08:22): But those other two factors of ideal job and meaningful work might be a little less clear. Ideal job is about what I get in exchange for what I do. That's about my compensation, my workload and flexibility. When those three things are right, that job fits into my life like a puzzle piece snapping into place and it becomes my ideal job. Meaningful work really comes down to purpose, strengths and belonging.

(08:46): Do I believe my work matters? Does it align with my unique talents and gifts? And am I doing it on a team where I feel celebrated and accepted for who I am and what I contribute? When you give someone their ideal job doing meaningful work for a great boss, they look around and they say, Hey, I like what I'm doing here, who I'm doing it with, let's go. And then their commitment level goes up.

John Jantsch (09:07): It's funny, I think the flexibility probably jumped on the list several notches because so many people had never experienced work from home and the flexibility that gave them, and all of a sudden it's like, I like this, you know? Yes. I check my five minute break and go get some laundry done instead of just like, you know, sitting around chatting with people. And I think that flexibility piece probably went way up the list, didn't it?

Joe Mull (09:29): It did it. Now the number one most requested workplace benefit in the world. But here's the interesting piece of this, John, is that flexibility, remote work is just one kind of flexibility. Flexibility is really about giving people some autonomy and some influence to decide when, where, or how they work.

(09:47): So if you're an employer who isn't able to offer a remote work option, like for example, flight attendant, not an ideal work from home job, but maybe you're giving people the opportunity to choose the length of their shift or the start time or their days of the week, or who they work with, or the locations where they work.

(10:05): We know that giving some of that influence back to people directly correlates with commitment.

John Jantsch (10:12): I could actually see somebody flying a plane from just like a little console, you know, on their desk at home. What do you think?

Joe Mull (10:18): Isn't it already a lot of autopilot? I'm not a pilot and I'm taking nothing away from the people who fly me around the country when I go to speak, but I know the computers are heavily involved.

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(11:51): So I kinda laughingly tell a lot of companies I work with from a marketing standpoint that you know, you have a brand, you know, they're like, oh, branding that's for a big company.

(11:59): It's like, no, you have a brand. It's just whether or not it's intentional. And you talk about the idea that every company has an internal scorecard, which is sort of their employer brand on the inside. So talk a little bit about that and how maybe somebody taps into that idea.

Joe Mull (12:13): Yeah. So every employee is measuring you against this internal psychological scorecard that they have that's made up of those factors of ideal job and meaningful work and great boss. And so if I'm coming to your company every single day and my compensation is below what I need it to be, if I'm struggling with an overwhelming workload, if I get no flexibility whatsoever.

(12:34): Then I'm not able to check those ideal job boxes. The same is true with meaningful work. If I experience exclusion, for example, if there's no opportunity for me to grow my career, if I'm not getting any support or coaching from my boss, these are the boxes on that internal psychological scorecard that I need to check in order to join, stay, care and try.

(12:57): And so this framework really becomes the diagnostic tool that employers can use to decide what we're already doing well, but where we may have some gaps in terms of becoming that destination workplace.

John Jantsch (13:08): And you actually have a physical scorecard, right? I've seen some of the resources that accompanied the book. And so you actually have a couple tools where somebody, I mean are you suggesting go around, hand it to everybody and say like, score us, or how do you use that tool?

Joe Mull (13:21): Yeah, no, it's a great question. And I do think it might be the sexiest Venn diagram ever published in a book, but I'm biased now. This is as a scorecard. It's used at both an individual and an organizational level. So you could easily turn the nine dimensions on that scorecard into an organization-wide survey where you ask your employees, please rate the degree to which you experience the following.

(13:42): And actually as in the toolkit that we give readers, we actually give that dimensions of employee assessment that they can download and use at across the organization. But at an individual level, you know, we tell leaders all the time, if you wanna know what employees want ask. But what we also know is that a lot of employees don't necessarily know what it is that they want, that they're not getting, they may not be able to articulate it or they may not be comfortable doing.

(14:07): So there's a power dynamic, or maybe I don't have a great relationship with my boss. This framework gives leaders at any level of the organization a vocabulary that they can use to probe and understand what the conditions are that lead people to thrive. And whether they're not or not, they're happening for people at the individual level.

John Jantsch (14:25): So the one phrase that I've heard you use that you know it's probably raising some eyebrows because it sounds aluminous, is the era of hiring the best person for the job is over. Please elaborate.

Joe Mull (14:38): Yeah. Well what we say is that what you must do now is create the best job for the person. So listen, if anybody listening to this knows somebody who has changed jobs in the past year or two, and if you think about why that person changed jobs, you'll get a host of answers. Some people will say, I need better pay.

(14:54): Some people will say, I wanted a better commute or more flexible work schedule, or more fulfilling work or a better boss. There are a whole host of reasons. When I do keynotes and workshops, it's one of the first questions I ask the audience, and I'll get two dozen answers. And when you listen to them, they all sound the same.

(15:10): Or excuse me, they all sound different, but they are the same. They all roll up to this idea of better quality of life. So when we talk about creating the best job for the person, we're really talking about standing out as the way that job fits into my life. It doesn't take over my life, it's a more humane employee experience that doesn't treat me like a commodity. It treats me like a fully formed human being who also has a life outside of work.

John Jantsch (15:38): So you started down a path that, I want to go a little deeper on this. This idea that instead of putting out, you know, here's the requirements, here's the education, here's the, you know, the job description that you're actually taking somebody and saying, here are your skills, here's what you want out of life, let's design the job around that.

(15:56): I mean, obviously I could hear some people going, you know, there'll be anarchy, you know, but, but I mean is that to some degree what you're suggesting?

Joe Mull (16:05): To some degree. So the nature, the idea of tweaking a position to fit someone's skills or strengths or desires isn't new. Gallup has done a ton of research on this for years. It's something called strengths-based leadership. It's also known as job crafting. When you hire somebody into a role and you say, we think you're gonna handle these kinds of things on this list, and then you figure out they're really good at some of them and less so at others, if you can tweak that role to allow them to play to their strengths more often, you actually get more commitment and higher quality work.

(16:36): And yeah, it does mean that you need to find other people to do those other things, but across the board, instead of trying to raise everybody's weaknesses to a level of mediocrity, you're starting at people's strengths and you're getting them to a level of quality that most people don't reach.

(16:51): You know, John, when we recently hired for someone and on my team and we posted the job description, yes, we put the job duties, yes, we put the salary and benefits information, but we also talked a lot about our commitment to quality of life. That this was a job. We wanted to be a compliment to people's life, not to take over and be a burden to someone's life. We talked about how we wanted to be a place that people would come to and enjoy being a part of our culture, of ordering Mexican takeout for staff meetings and not being afraid to sing show tunes around the office. And when we put those things front and center in our job description, it gave potential candidates of flavor, not just of what they'd be doing, but what the work would be like day in and day out.

(17:31): And we ended up getting a whole host of applications for that position that ended up being more than we would've got if we would've just stuck to a traditional job description.

John Jantsch (17:39): No, no question. And I think, you know, I think not everybody, but you can see you go to Monster, you know, one of the job boards, you can see there are companies that are waking up to this idea. You can see there's definitely a lot of old school still out there, but you definitely see people leading with the fun, if you will, in a position.

(17:57): And I, you know, I do think that, you know, the world is probably catching up with that a little bit. You may say it doesn't really fit, but I want to ask this because it's on a lot of people's minds, it's somewhat of a trend, you know, where does diversity, equity and, and inclusion, you know, initiatives fit into this idea?

Joe Mull (18:13): No, it's a perfect question cuz it's directly in the model that we wrote about in the book. So we talked about one of those three factors being meaningful work. Well, one of the dimensions of meaningful work is belonging. And belonging starts with connection and camaraderie, right? Developing relationships with people beyond just the tasks and duties of my job. We know that matters. We know that people will forego taking a new job just because they like the people that they work with and they don't wanna leave that team. That shows up in the data consistently when you look at retention and turnover.

(18:43): But nowadays what we're seeing is that when people don't experience belonging, which is beyond just connection and camaraderie, it's being an accelerated, uh, accepted member of a team for who you are and what you contribute. It actually drives people out the door to the point.

(19:00): Now, John, where last year when McKinsey put a report out about why so many people changed jobs after the pandemic, the number three biggest reason given for leaving a job was a lack of belonging. We know that the folks who practice DEI work in organizations across the country have actually added the letter B to the acronym.

(19:18): So when organizations decide that we're gonna make a commitment to an inclusive workplace, it means we need to start and spark some conversations here about the naturally occurring differences between people and how we can make our workplaces acceptable and and inviting for folks from all walks of life.

John Jantsch (19:34): It's, it is funny, I think I read somewhere when they were talking about retention. They were saying one of the like key kind of practical like measurable ingredients was does, you know, does the employee have a best friend at work?

(19:45): And that, that was like a real, I mean, if they didn't, you know, they didn't ever really connect with anybody at work, they were probably gonna leave. I was pretty interested.

Joe Mull (19:53): That's absolutely right. And a lot of that research is really focused, not even non, you know, best friend at work is different than best friend at home, right? Sure. But best friend at work means is there somebody that I can vent to who understands what I go through, but also who knows my story outside of work and knows who I am as a person.

John Jantsch (20:09): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. All right, so let's hit another trendy topic. Where's AI going to fit in this? I know a lot of employers look at this and go, oh great, we can get a lot more done with fewer people. And then there's certainly a lot of hand ringing in the media about, you know, your job AI is coming for your job.

(20:26): I'd love to hear, you know, again, if we're gonna talk about being the destination workplace, you know, where does that fit into the destination workplace?

Joe Mull (20:33): I actually don't think AI is gonna have a dramatic impact on what activates people at work, what leads them to commit to doing a great job. The emotional and psychological buttons and levers, if you will, that lead people to wanna be a part of an organization and do great work for an organization.

(20:51): It's certainly going to create a whole host of jobs and industries that we haven't even thought of yet. It's absolutely going to influence a whole host of industries and jobs that we've long expected to be there forever. A lot of the questions that I'm getting around AI right now in terms of employees and bosses are focused on the ethics of it, right? Right. So is, so how should I feel if one of my direct reports is using AI to get some of their work done?

(21:16): Is that ethical? And, you know, my whole thing comes back to are they passing it off as a skill that they possess? Because if that's the case, then there's an ethical question there. Yeah. But if they're saying, I can be more productive, I can improve the quality of the work that I'm doing by using this new tool, then I say, let 'em have it and let them have it soon because they're gonna tinker with it and learn about it and share it with others in your organization. And you're gonna be ahead of the game around a technology that's constantly changing.

(21:44): But at the end of the day, John, most people believe they, most people do a great job when they believe they have a great job. And I don't think AI's gonna change that.

John Jantsch (21:52): You know, I'm seeing a couple things. First off, I'm seeing people seeing it as, you know, again on all those like surveys that people take, do I have the tools I need to do my job?

(22:00): And I think some people are saying, this is a great resource , you know, to help me do my job. I'm also seeing, or at least starting to see an inkling, and we've seen it in our organization. Uh, it's a tool that's allowing people to take people who are maybe less experienced and raise their skills up a lot faster and get them to do work that is maybe more strategic because now, you know, they have a tool that that if nothing else can, you know, can take away some of the, you know, the, the SOP, you know, type of work. So, you know, who knows where we'll end up. But I think today as we're moving through rapid change, uh, I think I see a lot of positives.

Joe Mull (22:37): And you've just described email when it arrived, right? You know, it is a tool. It enhances, it improves, it can make us more efficient and more productive. And you know, there was a lot of fear back then too. Same thing was true about electricity, right? Electricity is coming into our houses and it's gonna kill us all. But the car, you know, it's just a Yeah.

John Jantsch (22:53): The telephone, right?

Joe Mull (22:54): That's right.

John Jantsch (22:57): Absolutely. So Joe, I appreciate you taking a few minutes to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and talk about employalty. Tell us where people can connect with you and obviously pick up a copy of the book.

Joe Mull (23:09): Yeah, thank you for that, John. The book is available anywhere you like to buy your books. Employalty is just E M P loyalty. Or you can search my name, Joe Mull, m u l l. Shout out to independent bookstores everywhere. If you wanna support your local independent bookstore, you can go to and source the book from there. And me personally, I'm over

John Jantsch (23:31): Awesome. Well, again, thanks so much for taking a few minutes out of your day to stop by the show, and hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Joe Mull (23:39): Thanks, John. Great to be with you.

John Jantsch (23:40): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it,, dot co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketing I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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