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Connecting Across Hybrid Workspaces

Join us as we explore the transformative power of recognition in the workplace with Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, founder and CEO of Good4Work. Geraldine brings her wealth of experience in HR and leadership to shed light on how recognition shapes employee engagement, especially in hybrid work environments. Discover the emotional ties that bind employees to their organizations, propelling them to go above and beyond, and how this emotional investment can drive a company's success. Listen in as we uncover the essential role of talent management in nurturing these connections, from positive onboarding experiences to impactful performance management.

In our conversation with Geraldine, we delve into the nuanced strategies of employee recognition and engagement, tailored to suit the evolving hybrid workspace. You'll hear about the five Cs of employee engagement: care, connect, coach, contribute, and congratulate, and their significance in supporting meaningful work and career growth. Geraldine and I also discuss the importance of continuous feedback and recognition programs that resonate with remote workers, ensuring they feel valued and appreciated. Plus, we touch on the diverse needs of workforce demographics and the importance of customizing recognition efforts to align with both individual and organizational values. Don't miss out on these expert insights and practical advice for mastering the art of recognition in today's digital workplace.

Show Notes

  • 0:02:57 - Winning in Virtual Workspace and Recognition (101 Seconds)
  • 0:11:46 - Employee Engagement Through Recognition (148 Seconds)
  • 0:30:26 - Positive Team Values Through Role Models (41 Seconds)

0:00:01 - Announcer

You are listening to the National University Podcast.

0:00:10 - Kimberly King

Hello, I'm Kimberly King. Welcome to the National University Podcast, where we offer a holistic approach to student support, well-being and success - the whole human education. We put passion into practice by offering accessible, achievable higher education to lifelong learners. On today's episode, we're discussing engaging hybrid employees by leveraging the magic of recognition, and joining us is Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, and Geraldine is the founder and CEO of Good4Work Web3 total talent recognition software to boost team engagement. She created Good4Work after struggling to engage distributed and global teams.

As a team leader and as an HR director in all sorts of companies in France and the United States, she provides thought leadership to inspire managers and leaders to build a high performing culture of trust. To inspire managers and leaders to build a high-performing culture of trust, Geraldine draws her inspirational stories and expertise from 15 years of navigating the corporate world. She has served as a manager, an HR business partner and now as a global leader in the high-tech sector. Geraldine holds a master's in HR from Sciences Paris and an HR certificate from UC Berkeley Extension, and we welcome Geraldine to the podcast. How are you?

0:01:28 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

I'm doing great, excited to be here, thank you.

0:01:31 - Kimberly King

Thank you. Why don't you fill our audience in a little bit on your mission and your work before we get to today's show topic?

0:01:39 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah. So, as you mentioned, I have a strong HR background and leadership background at the global level and basically, you know, I've learned a lot along the way, working in different culture, companies, environments, and my takeaway is we need to play to people's strengths, to engage them. So this is basically how I came up with that idea of updating recognition for our new world. So what I do today is I was super excited to participate in this book project, but on the side, I'm a tech entrepreneur and I've built this software about total talent recognition, which is exactly about recognizing people, skills and soft skills and allowing them to keep that in a career portfolio. I could tell you more. It's even leveraging the power of Web3, but I think we want to focus on recognition today and how we can leverage recognition in our virtual world.

0:02:55 - Kimberly King

Well, good for you, and I feel like it's a lost art. So I'm glad you're bringing the spotlight back onto it, and I'm looking forward to hearing more. Today, in addition to our topic, we're also pleased to announce the new book that the Center for the Advancement of Virtual Organizations has published as part of National University, and it's called Winning in the Virtual Workspace, an innovative book authored by 10 leading experts in the field, including yourself. It's packed with invaluable insights, practical strategies and cutting-edge techniques, so this book is your ultimate guide to thriving in the digital workspace. And so, Geraldine, can you tell us a little bit about this project?

0:03:33 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah, so it's a very exciting project with that book which is coming soon. I really like this idea and this approach of sharing different perspectives of experts on the virtual world. We know the value of putting together different perspectives and what is best, that sharing your perspective as an expert and to confront that to what the other experts can bring on the table to equip everyone with tips, you know, and practical advice to be the best in this virtual world.

0:04:22 - Kimberly King

Well, very good. I'm looking forward to reading it and hearing more. As I said, so now we can discuss our episode topic, which is engaging hybrid employees by leveraging the magic of recognition. I really love it and I think again it seems to be a lost art. So you're bringing this back. Can you explain to us why employee engagement matters for impacting positively the company performance?

0:04:46 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah, sure. So basically, employee engagement is about feeling an emotional connection with the company, which is also doing the extra effort, the extra mile and digging into your personal energy for the sake of your team, the success of your team and your company, beyond your only individual interest. So it's a feeling of belonging. It's very much about that feeling of belonging, that team spirit that you want to contribute, to want to contribute to. And we know that it's super important because during the pandemic, we have seen a rise of individualism, which is also, you know, a defensive mechanism, as during the pandemic, the quest of security has pushed us to turn inward. But overall, this is why employee engagement even matters more today. To get back to that, you know, collective and team spirit that makes basically the performance of the company.

0:06:03 - Kimberly King

I like that. You're a team spirit builder. It sounds like, by recognizing that. What is the link between talent management and employee engagement?

0:06:14 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So there's a strong link between the two fields. Actually, we could even say that there's like perfect alignment, because employee engagement somehow is about talent management. Let me explain. So, basically, talent management directly influences employee engagement by shaping the employee experience from recruitment through development, performance management, recognition or retention. When organizations invest in effective talent management strategies that prioritize employee engagement, they can cultivate a workforce that is highly motivated, productive and committed to achieving organizational success. So there's, you know, multiple topics.

Only recruitment- If you do hire the right person for the team- of course you have more chance to have that talent being engaged. So it's about onboarding and integration. We know that the positive effect of onboarding on the retention as it reduces the turnover right away. You invest on the onboarding, you make sure to return your best talents and we have more, you know, development on career growth, performance management, recognition, retention strategies... All of these topics are totally about talent management and if you want to build that highly performing organization and if you want to value your people and to build that culture, first value your people and to build that culture first, that people first culture that we talk about as being the driver of high productivity, definitely talent management is at the core of your strategy. So there's no wonder why the best, you know, best in class organizations do have a strong talent management strategy.

0:08:25 - Kimberly King

I love that. I think about a company Nordstrom which it just felt like probably back in the day when Nordstrom first came onto the scene. They seemed to really value the people that worked for the company and you always would hear really positive stories because it started from the inside and it definitely reflected on the way people did business, and so I love what you're doing. What is the current state of employee engagement at the global level, and is there a difference among countries?

0:08:57 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yes. So disengagement is a global phenomenon, with only 15% of employees feeling engaged in the US and you know, not better in Europe. In France, for example, it's only 7% of employees feeling engaged.

0:09:14 - Kimberly King

That’s so low. Wow.

0:09:16 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So there's a lot to do there and definitely there's, you know, differences across regions and countries because of the factors such as cultural attitudes toward work, labor market dynamics, economic conditions so many things can impact employee engagement.

What matters is that we want to invest into recognition, especially to tackle this employee disengagement problem. And you know, it comes with new phenomenon in talent management. So maybe you have heard about this career cushioning phenomenon, which is all about having a plan B, basically because you are not sure and you don't have, you know, that certainty about your future and in your job and you'd better make sure that you do have that plan B. So, of course, you know, the more uncertainty we do have, the more people want to anticipate and even have, you know, some side hustles, any alternatives that can help them grow and having and building that skill set that will make them still very well positioned on the labor market. So we definitely we have tons of phenomenon that have been, you know, many phenomenon this last year, but it's all about less emotional connection and making sure, in terms of job security, that you're doing your best.

0:11:12 - Kimberly King

Okay, that's okay and thank you. Tell me again the name of that, what you called it as a plan B option?

0:11:25 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So it's career cushioning, so it's basically being very cautious about your career and cushioning C-U-S-H-I-O-N-I-N-G cushioning. Career cushioning.

0:11:40 - Kimberly King

Okay, interesting. Why is recognition considered as the first driver of employee engagement?

0:11:50 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So basically, recognition is the first driver of employee engagement because it addresses fundamental human needs. It reinforces positive behaviors, a culture of appreciation, it increases job satisfaction retention. So that's why it's basically the magic wand. If we bring some numbers here, employees are two, almost three times more likely to be highly engaged when they believe they will be recognized, which is huge. And recognition increases productivity by creating a positive work environment for cooperation.

You know, in the virtual world, default communication is no talk. So we tend to have these human barriers, these cognitive barriers. So it's very important to emphasize positive communication for that reason, most of the time when you are in the virtual world, you don't know what other people think of your work. And this is what I've noticed with the power of recognition is that as soon as you know that your teammate in another state or in another country is absolutely valuing your work and for specific reasons, which helps you to be more efficient in yours, for example, or whatever reasons, the effect is quite immediate. You notice right away that, because you know that the other person is thinking positively of the impact of your work, you start building trust with that person and it increases communication, it increases cooperation. So in the end, it's a question of communication and positive communication.

0:13:54 - Kimberly King

Right, and I think in this virtual world I mean, there's just so much negativity that can come out of that and people can hide behind that. But I think I just love that you are recognizing people for the talents that they're doing and I you know it really does go a long way in the way they impact. So that positive impact of recognition at the psychological level, how does that impact that and how do you correlate trust, recognition and well-being?

0:14:25 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yes, so trust is definitely the foundation of positive workplace relationships and organizational culture and high-perform and organizational culture and high-performing organizational culture. So it basically covers also all the mass flow pyramids. You all know about the mass flow pyramid with that different level. It starts at the safety level and the last level is about belonging and basically trust is just the cross approach or whatever we could, or the cross energy for that mass law, for that mass law pyramid, for that mass law pyramid. So recognition is also linked to trust because it fosters transparency, fairness and respect. And we also have some numbers in highly trust organizations. We know that burnout is reduced.

So there's a direct correlation between the level of trust and the level of well-being and there's even some scientific explanation behind that. So you might have heard of this brain chemical, of course, which is called oxytocin, and it's proven that when you do have that feeling of trust, that brain chemical helps you feel safer and the feeling of being safe helps you process emotions, helps you process information in the easiest way and in a better way, which you know can explain why you feel less stressed when you are at peace, which makes sense, right? So this is why trust is such. It's so important to build a culture of trust in this virtual world.

0:16:38 - Kimberly King

I think that's great and again it does stress you out when you don't really know how you're doing and there's no gauge in there. So I think that peaceful, you know, a little attaboy, a pat on the back is what we call it here in the United States that you know good job, you're doing a great job. But you know, and then maybe it also helps with constructive criticism. If you point out good things and then say, oh, these are some things you can work on, but maybe probably start with the positives, right?

0:17:06 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Absolutely and you're totally right on this. So we do have this cognitive bias that makes that, if you do have this sandwich feedback, which you know we might have learned in the past, so you do one layer of positive, one layer of negative, one layer of positive, one layer of negative. In the end you only do remember the negative feedback. So this is the reason why it's very important to dissociate the positive feedback and the recognition, on one hand, and then having that posture of coach, you know, growing and developing the person on the other hand, which is much more efficient.

0:17:50 - Kimberly King

That's a good point. I love that. What challenges do remote workers commonly face in terms of engagement and what measures can be taken to address these challenges proactively by leveraging recognition?

0:18:03 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Okay, so, yes, we know them, but basically, all the blockers and adverse effects of what drives employee engagement can be the challenge faced by remote workers. So, indeed, so you know, a lack of motivation can come from meaningful and if you work on a meaningful work, you could work on that lack of motivation. You could work on that lack of motivation why you are. Yes, meaningful work, which is all about why you are doing what you do, why you are happy to do that.

Career growth, lack of opportunities, lack of transparency- we tend to talk a lot about career opportunities only accessible to people who meet in person. So there's a lot to do there as well. We absolutely want to empower people as much as possible because obviously, you know, autonomy is huge in the remote world and we don't want to micromanage people. So, belonging, if you create and foster that feeling of belonging, of course you help people feel less isolated and recognition helps people feel valued, appreciated and respected. So there's a lot to do and it's all about the company culture in the end. And how much people can contribute to the company goals and performance in the end.

0:19:45 - Kimberly King

Great. Well, this is really interesting information. I think it's so relevant as well, and right now we need to take a quick break and more in just a moment. Don't go away. We will be right back. And now back to our interview with Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, and we're talking about engaging hybrid employees by leveraging the magic of recognition. I love this. So, Geraldine, what strategies have been most effective in promoting remote worker engagement and fostering an emotional connection and sense of belonging with virtual teams?

0:20:22 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah, such a good question. So we already touched a little bit about this topic. But what we want to know is that, definitely, engagement creates high performance and when it's about making the extra effort to do the work, what makes the difference in terms of management to help the company achieve its goals is definitely fostering meaningful work, and we know that that's always a challenge for people who are more working in the back office or in administrative roles to find their work meaningful. So there's a lot to do there for the leaders to, you know, help people see basically the impact of their work if they are not directly in contact with customers. So it's about career growth as well.

You know that coaching posture is super important in the virtual world, but you absolutely want to help people grow and create that dynamic for them to learn new things and create new challenges, which is super important. Empowerment, autonomy is so important. Belonging as well and fulfilling work relationships. So basically we can call it the five Cs to engage employees which are care, the culture of care, connect- how we can connect our people together, how we can coach them as leaders and how we can make them contribute to the company or to the team goal and how we can congratulate them, to recognize them. So this is basically what we need to do.

0:22:21 - Kimberly King

I love those five Cs. That's great. How can performance feedback and recognition be effectively delivered to remote workers to ensure their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated, thus boosting their engagement and motivation?

0:22:35 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah, so this is such a good question. So we know that for continuous feedback, we do have a lot of tools that can ease the process of providing feedback. We do have a lot of tools that can ease the process of providing feedback and that's good. But again, that coaching posture for the manager to help people grow is really critical. So it's that key questions. For example, how can I help you? You know that can lead to that coaching conversation where the manager can really share his knowledge and can really support the growth of the person.

And we know that performance management is a very difficult topic and challenging topic.

So this is where you want to have, instead of having that anxiety, you know, once a year or once per quarter, a year or once per quarter you absolutely want to work on continuous feedback and having that regular checking, that regular conversations, and to have that posture coach, not once a year, you know, during the performance appraisal.

You want to have to do that on a continuous basis and this gives as well qualitative data to assess performance on that continuous basis. And for continuous recognition, you know it's an effective recognition and rewards program is about two things. Transparency, to help people connect together and boost collective productivity. You don't only want to value the top performers, and it's about fairness. And yes, so, if you can, on top of continuous recognition, make sure that you can have this 360 degrees overview of people's performance by having insights and by having feedback from people from different teams, from managers or even customers, or even customers. It gives another, of course, it gives much more weight in terms of recognition, but on top of that, you can remove biases as well, which is very important for recognition, on top of having that continuous recognition process.

0:25:22 - Kimberly King

And I think you also mentioned that being transparent, which can be a little difficult or challenging when you are virtual. So I think this is all great checks and balances. How does the evolving workforce demographics influence employee engagement?

0:25:40 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So a lot, so a lot. So we had this quick conversation during the break about how much it can be important to tailor recognition for the person. It's definitely the analogy of the gift when you offer a gift, you have that empathy mindset, right. You want to know which gift could have the best impact, the best positive impact for the person, not the gift that you would like, right? So recognition is exactly the same, and we know that we do have generational differences among baby boomers, gen X, millennials or Gen Z.

We all have different preferences, attitude and expectations regarding the work. So, for example, millennials and Gen Z often prioritize work-life balance, career development opportunities and meaningful work experiences, while baby boomers may place more emphasis on job security or traditional forms of recognition. So this is where we want to be very careful in tailoring our recognition program. Plus, even on other topics, we all have different preferences Flexible work arrangements, of course. That's not the same story for parents or for millennials. That's not the same story for parents or for millennials. In terms of technology, adoption, of course, same thing. We know that millennials like very much working as teams and do love their tribe, definitely. And social media. So, yes, there's a lot to say there. But even for employee well-being. You know, workforce demographics can definitely influence attitudes towards employees' well-being and mental health, so younger generations in particular are increasingly prioritizing mental health and well-being in the workplace, and maybe they're right.

0:28:11 - Kimberly King

And that is such a really key, important point about the generational, the way things really, what they value versus what we value, versus what our parents value, and so and I love your you know your example of the gift and it's not necessarily what we want, but you have to read the room and understand where people's you know what they're interested in, so I like that. What kind of recognition would you recommend as particularly effective and how can we tailor recognition approaches based on the company's context and how can we tailor recognition approaches based on the company's context?

0:28:50 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So there's a question of company culture, there's a question of cultural differences. So there are many, many questions to tackle there. So I mentioned in the e-book an example which is you know, even in terms of cultural differences in the US we want to have a leaderboard, we want to showcase and to praise in a public way people, and in France you want to favor the relationship, so you would prefer having a lunch in the private setup and to give the recognition. So there are many, many cultural differences, for sure. But what we want to know is that the power of recognition is also about positive reinforcement. So this is where it should be aligned with the strategy of the company and the corporate culture and which are the core values. So that's the other power of recognition: restoring trust among teams. If you reinforce the positive behaviors to make sure that core value about customer excellence, for example, is a daily habit, can really inspire the other team members because they are valued in their role model approach, Of course, it's much more effective.

0:30:35 - Kimberly King

I like that analogy as well about. You know, in France you have a lunch which goes a long way, but my son, he's a police officer, and when he has overtime he often prefers the time off versus the extra money, which is so different, I think from our generation too, but he loves to travel and that in his you know, he's only 25, but he works hard and then plays hard. I guess that's the way he looks at it. But what are the growth prospects of the employee recognition market?

0:31:11 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

So the employee recognition market has been experiencing steady growth in recent years, so driven by several factors, including the increasing importance of employee engagement, as we mentioned, the growing focus on organizational culture and the rise of remote and distributed workforce. So definitely that's where the strategy in terms of talent management and employee engagement should be to create high performance, and the perspectives are very important. It will keep going and we can bring even more innovations there, because in the end, we realize that gift can be different. We also are in a world where there's more and more talent mobility within industries or within companies, and there's an acceleration of talent mobility as well. So recognition could be also, you know, to be able to keep your, your recommendations, for example, or your positive feedback from, uh, from one company to another, without losing everything and without having to start from scratch to rebuild the trust, so in the next company.

So this is why we talk more and more about career portfolio, which is, you know, which already the flexible workforce has already leveraged these tools. So freelancers do absolutely know, or even designers do absolutely know, that they need to build their career portfolio. But that's where we are going as well in the coming years, we all need to build our career portfolio in the coming years. You know we all need to build our career portfolio and that's another way to build our career and to leverage recognition. Why would we lose in the end all the recommendations again and the awards that we could get in our company? We want to showcase that.

0:33:48 - Kimberly King

Right, and I like that. I think you know, LinkedIn. There's profiles that you can build with your recommendations or your kudos, acumens, and also even with Google and all of that. But it's true you want to carry that wherever you go, to be recognized for the work you've done. So I like that. Well, I think you are doing a great job and I think you know we're really bringing this back and bring it into the forefront. So I appreciate what you're doing there and thank you for sharing your knowledge. And if you do want more information, you can visit National University's website. It is nu.edu. And thank you so very much for your time, Geraldine. 

0:34:17 - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine

Yeah, my pleasure, Kim. 

0:34:18 - Kimberly King

You've been listening to the National University Podcast for updates on future or past guests. Visit us at nu.edu. You can also follow us on social media. Thanks for listening.

Show Quotables

"When organizations invest in effective talent management strategies that prioritize employee engagement, they can cultivate a workforce that is highly motivated, productive and committed to achieving organizational success." - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, https://shorturl.at/xCKW7 Click to Tweet
"Recognition is the first driver of employee engagement because it addresses fundamental human needs... And recognition increases productivity by creating a positive work environment for cooperation." - Geraldine Woloch-Addamine, https://shorturl.at/xCKW7 Click to Tweet