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How To Empower People To Improve Themselves With Leslie Caputo of Humu

4 Feb 2022

The people behind the voices:

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Leslie Caputo

Solutions Consultant at Humu


The Employee Experience Podcast Ep. 2

How To Empower People To Improve Themselves

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is Humu’s Leslie Caputo.

Leslie Caputo is an organisational psychologist and People Scientist at Humu. Humu coaches managers and employees into developing work habits that are scientifically proven to drive performance and evolve their people management strategies in the new age of work.

Leslie believes work has changed for the better, and that leaders need to listen to their employees and promote better work habits. Her guiding principle is to always ask for help, be curious, creative, and have a growth mindset – to always bring employees along with you.

About The Employee Experience Podcast

The Employee Experience Podcast, hosted by Gillian French, is the podcast series for leaders pursuing innovative ideas to engage and connect with their employees. We’ll speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Other guests on Season 1 of The Employee Experience Podcast include:

  • Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer at Vayner Media, on building the best human empire
  • Gary Keegan, CEO at Uppercut, on the secret to elevating performance (Part One)
  • Gary Keegan, CEO at Uppercut, on the secret to elevating performance (Part Two)
  • Niamh Gunn, CEO of the Dialogue Code, on creating a workplace for Humane Leadership
  • Dave Ulrich, the father of Modern HR on shaping how people and organizations deliver value
  • Scott McInnes, Founder of Inspiring Change, on engaging people to build a great culture
  • Stan Slap, Author and CEO on the secrets to building a world-class company culture
  • Ryan Jenkins, bestselling Author on how to decrease loneliness at work
  • Margaret Heffernan, bestselling Author and CEO on how to improve the Global Employee Experience
Full Transcript

Gillian French (00:02):
Hi. I’m Gillian French from Workvivo. You’re very welcome to The Employee Experience Podcast. We speak to leaders about how to best connect with employees, build healthy cultures and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Gillian French (00:19):
Leslie Caputo is a people scientist at Humu. She’s an organizational psychologist by background and has spent the majority of her career in consulting work with large enterprises, to solve their most difficult people challenges. We’re delighted to have Leslie as our guest this week.

Gillian French (00:35):
Thank you very much for joining us today, really appreciate it. Do you want to start, Leslie, by telling us a little bit about Humu?

Leslie Caputo (00:53):
Sure. Yes. I am a solutions consultant and people scientist here at Humu. And what Humu is an action management platform. We combine people science with machine learning to help employees grow and build better work habits through a concept called nudges, which is a proven concept from behavioral science, behavioral economics. And so that’s what I do here at Humu. We’ve been around for about two and a half years.

Gillian French (01:18):
Wow, amazing. It’s really interesting. Listen, I’m delighted to have you here today to discuss some of the insights that you previously shared. You have previously spoken about imprintable moments. What are they? And why are they so important to employee experience?

Leslie Caputo (01:33):
Yeah, great question. The concept of imprintable moments actually comes from Humu’s CEO, who was the chief people officer at Google for quite a while. His name is Laszlo Bock and he founded Humu. And during his time at Google, him and his team of people scientists and people researchers, found that there were these key moments in employees’ experience that had a disproportionate impact on how they felt and how they thrived at an organization. And those were things like onboarding.

Leslie Caputo (02:02):
Imagine when you first join a company, the experience if you’re sitting there and you don’t have access to the right technology and you’re wondering, what the heck am I even doing here? If that onboarding first couple days goes bumpy, that’s an imprintable moment. It really sticks with you and lasts and changes the whole tone of how you perceive and experience your organization. Versus if that goes incredibly smoothly, that can really set things off on the right foot. And so they identify that there are a couple of these points in an employee’s career that were these imprintable moments. Onboarding is one, transition to first time manager is another. And interestingly here at Humu, we’re hypothesizing that this sort of return to office, return to work in the wake of the pandemic that we’ve been in for the last two years is another pretty key imprintable moment.

Gillian French (02:50):
Yeah, I actually noticed that when some people came back to work, they were really excited and they came in full of energy and then they found there was hardly anybody there and they went to say hello to people and some people were on Teams or Zoom calls and were quite sort of I’m on a phone here. And I think in their head, it wasn’t what they expected. They arrived in, full of energy but when they got there, it wasn’t as they imagined. I can definitely see how that would affect in those moments.

Leslie Caputo (03:21):
And what’s great about recognizing and identifying what those moments are is that you can then craft interventions around them. And so in the onboarding example that I shared before, one of the things that here at Humu we nudge on through our nudging is early in the onboarding process for employees, find that they can tackle right away. Oftentimes we try to slow things down in onboarding and say, “Oh, just go meet people, just get your bearings.” And actually the research shows, that’s not the right thing to do. The best thing is to give them an early win. Give them something high impact but reasonable for a new hire and let them test that out. And so same goes for this return to the office, we should be thinking about how can we manufacture or design experiences around return to work to make it feel better, so you don’t come into this half empty office and have that negative experience.

Gillian French (04:08):
Yeah. Brilliant. The other thing that’s surfacing a lot and I’m reading about is sense of belonging. And that seems in a hybrid remote, environment, fairly difficult for organizations and leaders to deal with. Have you any insight onto how to create sense of belonging in this environment that we find ourselves in?

Leslie Caputo (04:29):
Yeah. I think that’s a really great question. I think a lot of people are still struggling with what does it actually mean to have a sense of belonging? And really it’s about the environment. Sense of belonging is about the extent to which employees feel that their unique backgrounds and perspectives are sought out, valued, heard. And I think a lot of the times, that gets conflated with organizations trying to manufacture these events or experiences where employees come together and they think just by bringing people together, that they’re going to create a better sense of belonging. But that’s really not what it’s about. It’s really about helping your employees build habits that create environment that allow people to belong.

Leslie Caputo (05:11):
How do you role model for employees? Things like inviting diverse perspectives when something comes across your desk or speaking up if they see something wrong or they see a behavior that isn’t respectful of other people’s diverse backgrounds. And so here at Humu, at least, we focus on this idea of micro actions and building habits by actually giving employees practical ways that they can try out these behaviors in their flow of work. But I think it’s really important to not conflate it with just social events and bringing people together to create belonging. Though that can be important too.

Gillian French (05:46):
Yeah, because it’s definitely a challenge, I think for organizations because ultimately it’s I’m accepted by this member of group. I connect with them and that I feel I can be myself around them. And when you’re in a more remote setting, it’s probably easier to wear the mask sometimes and not truly get to connect and understand people or feel understood yourself.

Leslie Caputo (06:07):
Right. I think that’s definitely true. I think sometimes when you’re not face to face with someone, you don’t always have the motivation to ask them a question about their personal lives.

Gillian French (06:18):
You’ve also been very vocal about the fact that sense of purpose matters more than ever. Why is that? And also, are we putting a huge expectation on leaders and organizations around sense of belonging, sense of purpose? Is that something that as adults, we should be finding ourselves and really taking that responsibility?

Leslie Caputo (06:40):
Yeah. I think that’s really interesting and a very fair question. I think there’s a difference between sense of purpose in my life and what I find purposeful in my life versus having the purpose of a company resonate with me feeling engaged by that sense of purpose. There is tons of research out there about the importance of being able to have line of sight into the impact of our work, to be able to see how my discreet day to day tasks add up to the larger picture of making my company successful. People scientists will refer to that as task identity. We know it is a strong predictor of employee engagement, sense of belonging, intent to stay and decades ago, that was very clear. You would build a car and you were putting the parts on the actual car and you’d see the car drive away.

Leslie Caputo (07:33):
And as work has gotten more abstract and automated, we’ve lost a lot of that. People are much more cogs in a wheel than they used to be. I remember in my consulting days before I joined Humu, I would do a lot of interviews with people in different roles to better understand kind of their day to day work tasks as part of building architecture around compensation plans and that type of work. And I still remember doing research for a large insurance company with extremely, first low level actuarial jobs. And them being able to say to me, when I would say, “Tell me about the day to day tasks of your work. What is it that you do?” “Well, my job is to add up these numbers and to make sure that they add up.” But I’ll never forget this one actuary who said to me, “And I do that because I need to make sure that this person doesn’t lose insurance coverage.”

Leslie Caputo (08:28):
It was very striking to me that they were able to have this very discreet task, that their day was truly all day, adding up the numbers and making sure they were right but that he was very clearly able to articulate why is doing that work. And so again, I think we’ve lost a lot of that with the way work has changed over the last decade. And so it’s not about organizations being responsible for giving me my reason to exist, so much as they are responsible for making sure that employees understand how their day to day priorities rally up to that bigger picture because that just makes good business sense to do.

Gillian French (09:06):
Yeah. No, it absolutely does. But it is one of the things through my consultancy work and working with other organizations that I think leaders maybe need to work on, as in I don’t think they give it enough focus to truly understand how powerful it is when people do realize that the work that they do is part of a bigger picture and they’re making a bigger impact.

Leslie Caputo (09:28):
I agree. I agree. There’s a great movie from the 80s called the Karate Kid. I don’t know if you all, do you all know that movie?

Gillian French (09:35):
Love it. Love it.

Leslie Caputo (09:37):
And in that movie, when the boy’s being trained but I forget the mentor’s name. If you remember, he just teaches him the movements. He teaches him, he has him paint the fence. And I forget what the other ones are, but they’re the very basic.

Gillian French (09:51):
Put the jackets on the hook.

Leslie Caputo (09:54):
Jacket on the hook. And then it comes to this point where the kid is super frustrated and he’s like, “Why am I doing this? I’m just doing your grunt work.” And then there’s that really powerful scene where all of a sudden he puts it all together and realizes this whole time he’s been learning how to do martial arts, karate. And I always think about that is, that is really the task of the manager is to have that moment with their people around all these things that you’re doing for what? Why? What is the impact? What are you actually learning to do? And I think that I fully agree is a skill that people leaders really need to work on.

Gillian French (10:31):
And I think it’s actually really, really relevant now in the great resignation or where we are sort of in the middle of pandemic. I won’t say post pandemic because it doesn’t feel like it’s post. But I think people have sat back and they’re questioning their own purpose and their life and they’ve had time on their hands. I think even now more than ever, organizations need to be mindful of this because people are questioning it themselves and asking sort of hybrid and questions of themselves.

Leslie Caputo (10:59):
Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of things are adding up where employees are taking a much more discerning eye to how does my company treat me? Am I having an impact here? Do they see me as a human? Do they care if I feel a sense of belonging here? And the bar has just really been raised. And I know a lot of companies that we work with here at Humu, are really grappling with that and how to get ahead of that. Or not even, they’re not ahead of it, catch up with it.

Gillian French (11:28):
Yeah. Do you think that we’ve kind of managed employees or thought about employees like machines and have been trying to manage them like machines over say the last decade, two decades? Have we sort of taken sort of old principles and tried to apply them to humans and now we’re reaping the sort of outputs of that and it’s not working anymore?

Leslie Caputo (11:50):
Yeah, I definitely think so. I think as again, as work becomes more automated, that’s certainly the case. And we particularly saw it with the shift to remote work, which is just that these very formal boundaries between work and life were really broken down. And all of a sudden you saw people, you heard their dogs barking, like mine was barking a few short moments ago, and you saw their kids running around in the back and this sort of facade of work and personal life just went away. And I think that there’s no going back from that. We can’t maintain this veneer of this professional persona that we put on. And I think the organizations that are going to succeed are going to be the ones to acknowledge hey, we’re not going back.

Leslie Caputo (12:38):
We need to recognize employees as full humans who have complex lives outside of work. And that there is a role for the organization in supporting employees in their lives outside of work. And that those boundaries are much more blurred. And how can organizations rise to the challenge of embracing that to use a very overused term, new normal. I think the leaders in companies that are really sticking their heads in the sand and saying, “We’re all going back to the office and it’s all going to be the same way it was,” are going to be left behind, for sure.

Gillian French (13:09):
And are you finding some of your customers are the ones that are approaching you and they’re trying to be progressive in this space and say, “We need help with this. We need your help on these sort of areas, sense of belonging, employee experience.” Is that what you’re finding?

Leslie Caputo (13:26):
Definitely. I think managers are overwhelmed. Managing through the last two years was really challenging. On top of learning how to manage in an environment where you can’t see all your people, that was a challenge in and of itself, of course, and then managing with people who had all sorts of personal circumstances outside of work that were impacting their work life and work performance. I think managers have just been exhausted by the amount of intervention they’ve needed to do. And so a lot of our customers are coming to us and saying things like, “Tell us, what’s the perfect balance between in office and at home?” And we’ve done those analyses, data would suggest that anywhere from two to three days in office is a good mix. But I always like to say, “There’s one silver bullet.”

Leslie Caputo (14:17):
Managers and people need to work on the behaviors that are going to make them more successful in this environment and there’s no one policy change that’s going to get you there. It’s about figuring out how to connect with your people in a more meaningful way. It’s about asking people how they are, learning more about them, what matters to them. It’s about connecting your team to the broader mission. We work with companies who are on the bleeding edge of developing vaccines right now. And there’s some companies who their employees are doing such meaningful work in today’s day and age that they’re burning out because they’re so invested in the purpose. There’s another side to the not connecting to the purpose, which is so connected to the purpose that you’re burning out. And so I think it’s really about helping managers gain the tools and skills to lead in this environment with compassion and flexibility.

Gillian French (15:09):
Yeah. Because you do see, and again, I engage with some people externally in my consultancy work and sometimes you get a sense of, well they’re not performing to the optimum level and they’re looking at their performance exactly the same way as they did sort of two, three years ago. And my advice to them is, you have to understand there hase been a pandemic. People are tired. We’ve been through something that’s quite significant. What’s your view on that?

Leslie Caputo (15:38):
I completely agree. I think there’s been a lot of talk of, okay, well now in this new normal, how do we quantify if people are hitting their KPIs? And that is important and yet I fully agree, right now, we just need to focus on making sure we’re supporting our employees, helping them re-acclimate. And as you said before, we’re in a great resignation. People have woken up to the fact that either they’re not happy at work or they’re in need of a change. And so companies who just bring people back to the office and are managing them against the same performance standards they were before and aren’t being flexible and adapting and being empathetic to the challenges that employees have been through, are probably going to have much more of a mass exodus than the companies that are being more compassionate.

Gillian French (16:25):
For sure. Which brings me kind of nicely into the next area. I know you’re a big believer of trust in the workplace, which I think everybody should be a big believer in. We kind of see a decline worldwide. There’s some worldwide stats that show that trust is on the decline. Also, empathy is on the decline, which is it’s quite sad to see. How do we build a high trust environment in a remote way? And then also the following question for that, there’s CPOs or HR people listening in, how do they support leadership teams in building high trust environments for employees? And what sort of maybe hints or tips you have in bringing leadership teams on the journey to understand the benefits of building a high trust environment?

Leslie Caputo (17:12):
Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of research on trust and particularly this idea of psychological safety within teams and the numerous ways that when that trust and psychological safety is there, how it impacts performance, innovation, more safe environments in industries where that’s relevant. And so we know trust and psychological safety or psychological trust in the ability to be comfortable within your team speaking up when you say something wrong, has tremendous business benefits. From the research that we’ve been looking at and also this ties to a lot of the research around why attrition is spiking the way that it is, a lot of the reasons why trust is eroding is because there’s a lot of feedback that’s going unacted upon. And so particularly over the last two years with the pandemic, companies did a ton of listening. They said that they wanted to know how their employees were doing so they surveyed and they talked to them and they did focus groups and employees got very tired of being listened to in all those different ways.

Leslie Caputo (18:15):
And the reason was, is because so few companies had a way to meaningfully act on that feedback. And so one of the studies that came out recently showed that one of the primary drivers of attrition right now is feedback that goes unacted upon. And how, what employees take from that when they see it go unacted upon, particularly when they see it go unacted upon after numerous cycles of providing their feedback, is they decide the company doesn’t care about me. And whether or not your company cares about you right now is really important based on what everything’s just been through. And so in order to build trust back, companies need to find a way to meaningfully act on feedback and show that they’re taking action.

Leslie Caputo (18:55):
And it doesn’t have to be on everything. I would urge companies to focus on what are the one, two, three, top things that your employees are saying they need most or that they need to change in the organization? And how can you show meaningful progress on that? That’s what we do here at Humu is we help companies look at all of their data on what their employees are saying needs to change or what the business needs to change and quickly turn that into action through the form of nudges, which are these targeted learning opportunities to shorten those feedback cycles, shorten those feedback loops. The employees feel like progress is being made. No one wants to feel like their voice isn’t being heard. I think that’s the key to trust right now.

Gillian French (19:37):
Yeah. And it’s coming up a lot through the podcast and some of the work that I’m doing that listening is so important. It’s a huge part of communication and we’re not really. Leadership teams are communicating downwards and they’re not actually listening to what the employees are saying and really listening. Because we’re always fighting for attention and to grab people’s attention but to just sit and listen to what the people and the employees have to say and what’s important to them is really coming through as an area that organizations need to improve on. I just want to also just maybe ask you another bit, if they’re asking and they’re not acting, what’s happening there? Are organizations just overwhelmed? Are leaders overwhelmed? Do you have any insight as to why they’re not acting, they’re asking and then not acting?

Leslie Caputo (20:22):
Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it is that the leaders and particularly the middle managers are very overwhelmed. Probably hear a lot about the frozen middle, the murky middle, there’s many different labels to talk about that middle level of leaders. But there’s this traditional format of listening, getting insights about what employees are saying, what employees need and then doing this idea of the top down action planning, where leaders share the insights and then they empower the next level of leaders and down to the middle managers to take action on that listening.

Leslie Caputo (20:56):
But as I was saying before, managers have enough to do right now, they’re really, really busy. They’re completely underwater. And so we need to find ways to empower everyone to take action and empower everyone to be a part in that change, including down to the frontline employees, so that everyone can work together towards making things better at work. In the example of belonging, what are the day to day behaviors that every individual contributor on a team can do to create an environment of belonging on their team? So that we don’t have to rely on such a hierarchical approach to change and one that’s much more empowering.

Gillian French (21:34):
Yeah. And I think there definitely has to be a shift. I think managers are having to do the day to day job and then the people management component is merely a bolt on or an add on which therefore they don’t to have the time or space to truly give time to the people or to act on any of the feedback. And also, I think we have to change our questions in one to one environments by asking, “How are you developing this person? What team have you helped day to day? What have you done to?” Just more questions focused on the people rather than the results to really change and change how we think about people management.

Leslie Caputo (22:12):
Yes, absolutely.

Gillian French (22:15):
Great. Thanks for that. Bringing values to life is another area I’ve seen on your website and some of the articles that have been written. And again, it’s an area that I feel leaders have struggled with when we were in the office and now we’re in this new normal as we call it. And I really do struggle to think, how do you bring these values to life in this environment? It’s really, really important. We didn’t do it well, particularly when we’re in the office. Do you have any tips or hints on how to do it in this setting going forward to really bring the company values to life for people?

Leslie Caputo (22:53):
Yeah. It’s a great question and I agree with you. I don’t think we ever got it right. And it’s one of the top reasons why companies come to Humu is they feel like they have new values or they need to refresh their values and they’re worried that they’re just going to be words on a wall. And particularly when there’s no even walls to hang them on anymore, how do we make this come alive for employees? For our existing employees but then also with the amount of churn we’re seeing and so many new employees coming and going, how do you onboard and align new employees to a set of values when they’re never even going to experience the office, is a big challenge for companies. And for us, it’s really about those everyday actions and habits to build them around.

Leslie Caputo (23:39):
And as I was talking about before, empowering employees to take ownership over it. I like to think about the Nike slogan, just do it, which is stop telling people these are the values, you should display them, but just tell them ways that they can actually do it. In an example, psychological safety is typically one of the values that comes up a lot when companies come to us. They have a value around speaking up if you see something wrong because has to do with creating a more inclusive environment, being a better ally. It has to do with mitigating risk and especially in safety oriented industries, speaking up is a value that almost every company has that comes to bear in their work in some way or another. But how do you actually get employees to do that?

Leslie Caputo (24:23):
Well, you need to build psychological safety. And so for us, the way we use nudges to help create that environment is by sending these targeted ideas for how you can think about speaking up in your team but in a way that’s hyper-personalized. We take in a lot of data from HRAS. We understand what level you are and therefore, what is sort of your locus of control around speaking up? Are you someone who should be creating an environment where people feel safe speaking up if you’re a leader? Or if you’re an individual contributor, should we be more focused on empowering you to speak up when you say something wrong? And then how can we nudge employees within teams in a complimentary way?

Leslie Caputo (25:00):
For example, if we’re trying to embed the value of speaking up, we might be nudging a leader that says in the first couple minutes of a meeting, ask for employees to spend a few minutes sharing their perspective on something they saw that maybe didn’t sit well with them in their careers and what that experience was like for them. And what did they learn from that? And then you as a leader, role model an experience that you had like this. And then for the individual contributor, we might nudge them in a different to say, “The next time you see something that you feel like you need to speak up about, here are some questions or prompts that you could use to bring that to someone else’s attention.”

Leslie Caputo (25:35):
It’s more about giving everyone ideas for actions that they can personally take but in a complimentary way, so that by leaders acting differently, individual contributors acting differently or subtly shifting the norms within a whole team, to move closer to that actual value set. And I think that’s really where the answer lies is in actually changing behaviors by building new habits that are easy to draw the line through to your day to day work. How can I actually live this value out in my day to day work? What does it look like as opposed to seeing the work on a wall?

Gillian French (26:09):
And I think a lot of organizations, well, some have done very well in the transition but some organizations have just sort of transferred what they were doing into just a remote or a hybrid. And that’s just not going to work. We have had the sessions where people have said, “It’s nearly a blank canvas to start again because it’s a completely different context.” Therefore you have to go back to the drawing board, so to speak, to see how do we operate? What do we need to change in this new environment? And I think that is one of the critical areas because people managers and leaders’ time is now going to be taken up much more around the emotional connection, the sense of belonging, people management and that’s where the focus has to be going forward.

Leslie Caputo (26:54):
Right. Yes. We’re seeing a lot of value refreshes or start over. And I think those are exactly the types of themes that we’re seeing, as well as a lot of energy and movement around learning and how to build a learning culture. A lot of values around curiosity, creativity, growth mindset. And I think particularly in a more hybrid work environment, where information isn’t coming to you like it would in an office but where the onus is on you to really reach out and find new information, experiment with new concepts, those are new values that companies are trying to think how to embed within their people.

Gillian French (27:31):
What do you see at the moment that leaders are getting really wrong in this current context? What are they not seeing?

Leslie Caputo (27:37):
I think the biggest risk that we run in leadership right now is again, kind of sticking it in the sand and not being open to changing your point of view or being proven wrong about the way things are going. I think none of us expected we were going to be in this position five years ago and now the world of work looks drastically different. And I think historically, leaders have been meant to feel like it’s a bad thing to change your mind or to say you were wrong but if there were ever a time to be comfortable doing that, I think now is that. To really encourage yourself to think about what a world of work looks like that’s drastically different and how you can get on board with that rather than saying, “Office is where the culture is built and we’re going to move back to the office.” I don’t think we’re ever going to get there. I don’t think your employees are ever going to get there and we need to be open to that.

Gillian French (28:32):
Yeah. I’ve actually been quite shocked at some large organizations coming out with blanket statements that we’ll never go back to the office, we’ll be fully remote. And I was quite shocked that some organizations came out and said that because I certainly don’t think we’re in a steady state at this moment in time. I think things are still changing at a rapid pace. I certainly wouldn’t be advising coming out with a blanket statement or saying, “This is the way we’re going to operate from now on.” None of us know what’s sort of up ahead.

Leslie Caputo (29:02):
Right. And there’s just no way it can be one size fits all. Employees are complex. Companies are complex. I just can’t imagine a world in which those blanket statements make any sense anymore.

Gillian French (29:13):
Yeah. Yeah. Have you any practical sort of suggestions or help for our listeners on how they can improve employee experience or their connectedness with their employees during this time, be it sort of in hybrid or fully remote settings? Have you any suggestions?

Leslie Caputo (29:34):
Yeah, I think the number one suggestion I would have would be, show your employees that you aren’t just listening for the sake of listening, but that you’re actually hearing them. Really, truly hearing them and intend to do something about it. Even if that’s saying, “We don’t have all the answers, we hear that you want this to change or that we need to be more of X, Y, Z but here’s what we plan to do about it.” And again, it’s not about boiling the ocean, but figure out the one, two, three things that your employees really need and help them get there and show them the path so you’re actually doing it. Be willing to admit mistakes, be willing to change your mind, be willing to ask for help from your employees if you don’t know how to get there. But I do believe that the companies that are going to succeed in this new era of work, are the ones that going to be more curious, creative, have a growth mindset and take employees along on that journey with them.

Gillian French (30:29):
Brilliant. Thanks, Leslie. I have some sort of quick fire questions for you now. The first one is, what is your favorite book and why?

Leslie Caputo (30:41):
Well, this is slightly self serving but it’s honestly probably Work Rules, which is a book written by Humu co-founder and CEO, Laszlo Bock, about his time leading the people function at Google and everything that he learned during this time. And the reason why I love that book so much is because Google was a revered for being so innovative and having all these incredible people practices and this amazing culture. And what he really takes you through in the book is an understanding of, we have science and research on all of these things, on what matters to employees, what makes employees happy and have that sense of belonging. And so, as innovative as many of their practices were, they were all deeply rooted in people science. And I don’t recall if I mentioned in my introduction, but I’m an organizational psychologist by background and believe deeply in the research that exists around what people want from work and what makes them feel fulfilled and they have a sense of meaning. And so his book does a really good job of marrying innovation and new age things with tried and true science about what matters to employees.

Gillian French (31:47):
Yeah. And just as you said that and I read it and we hear about empathetic leaders and we hear that we need to do these things, but yet organizations still don’t do them and they do a lot of it so badly and this information is readily available. I just don’t understand it. Can you share any of your own insight into it as to why they don’t actually take these learnings?

Leslie Caputo (32:13):
That’s such a good question. I think, it’s interesting, the whole concept behind nudges, which Laszlo talks about in his book and obviously it’s why he’s started Humu from his time at Google, was to pioneer this concept of nudges. The whole notion behind a nudge, this behavioral intervention, is that humans are well intentioned. They typically know the right things to do. They just get really busy and overwhelmed and don’t actually do them. And so it’s really about finding the right opportunities to intervene and make it easy to follow through on good intentions, that will really increase the uptake that people do the right thing. And so I just think that it’s about re-engineering the systems and processes around us to make it easier to do what we are already know is the right thing to do.

Gillian French (33:00):
Yeah. And time to think as well, give us a bit of space to do the right thing. One of the other questions I have is, who is your role model as a leader? Who do you see embodying the right type of leadership?

Leslie Caputo (33:13):
Gosh, I think as I was saying before, the leaders that we’re going to need the most of in the future are ones who are able to admit mistakes, change minds, change courses of direction. Slightly politically charged but for me, Barack Obama is a great example of that. He changed his perspectives from one term to another quite starkly and was willing to really change courses. And so I think we need more leaders like that, less about the policies necessarily that he led, but more about how his perspectives changed. I think that’s what we’re really going to need more of in the future.

Gillian French (33:54):
Okay. Brilliant. And do you have any predictions for the future of work that you’d like to share with us?

Leslie Caputo (33:57):
I think that we’re going to see the walls between work and life broken down even more. The last two years it’s really been about the physical space of work, and where is work? If it’s not in the office, where can it be? I think kind of the next frontier of that will be the system of time that we work. What are the convention of the workday? What does a modern workday actually look like? I suspect we’ll shift more towards people will have a set of KPIs that they’re managed against and people will have core hours or windows where they’re expected to collaborate with their peers but outside of that, the convention of the workday might go away. Obviously not for hourly shift workers but I do expect that that’s on the horizon, which is something I will be eagerly awaiting because I’m a big believer in results based work, not time based work.

Gillian French (34:54):
Absolutely. It’s the value that you’re delivering to the organization, not the hours that you’re popping in. Listen Leslie, thank you so much for your time today. That was brilliant and thank you for sharing your insights with us. Thank you.

Leslie Caputo (35:04):
Thank you so much, Gillian. Appreciate it.

Gillian French (35:09):
Thank you so much for listening to The Employee Experience Podcast, subscribe on Acast or wherever you get your podcasts and check out to find out more.

The people behind the voices

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Employee Experience Officer

Gillian French is a veteran people leader and organizational behaviorist with over 10 years of experience as Chief People Strategist.

She is passionate about coaching, strategy, building resilient and sustainable organisational culture, and improving global employee experience. She has also contributed to Forbes and is a regular panelist on the future of work.

Gillian is also the founder and CEO of SISU consulting, a business that specializes in organisation development and design.

Leslie Caputo

Solutions Consultant at Humu

Leslie and her team at Humu are passionate about making work better, for everyone, everywhere.

We’re passionate about building a product that empowers people to improve themselves, and the teams around them. At Humu, we live by our mission. That starts with creating an internal culture that is intentional and inclusive—and by being open to making improvements along the way.