Relationships at Work - the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture Podcast

Communication Technology Pros and Cons at Work with Brandon Caudle

June 05, 2022 Russel Lolacher Episode 20
Relationships at Work - the Employee Experience and Workplace Culture Podcast
Communication Technology Pros and Cons at Work with Brandon Caudle
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with technology service leader and speaker Brandon Caudle on the pros and cons of communication technology at work.

Brandon shares his experience with...

  • The types of communication platforms organizations can use
  • How knowledge transfer and culture can benefit from communication technology
  • The dark side of always being connected
  • How to introduce inexperienced staff to new technologies

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For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

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Russel Lolacher
This here's the podcast and this here is our guest. It's Brandon Caudle. And here's why he's awesome. He's the senior IT customer support manager for first American title, which is leading the technical sports, customer support to their employees. That's what he does, he leads with it and customer support. I like people that like people. He's been heavily involved formally with HDI which is the world's largest service and support professional association. He's a former member of their board of directors, lots of pride in his high school, apparently computer science. I didn't want to take that away from him. He was really insistent, I put that in his bio. And he funfact keynote speaker for inspiration that for an inspiration day conference in Sweden, Sweden, congratulations to all that tech guy. Welcome to the podcast.

Brandon Caudle
Hey, Russel, I'm waving. I don't know if they can see me through like somehow the the audio I'm hoping that all of our listeners though, kind of, they really focus on this part. And they imagine me waving and that's that's really the purpose of it.

Russel Lolacher
Maybe it's the wind waving past the microphone. Maybe that's what they'll get from it. But it's the theater of the mind brand. And it's the theater, that TOM as learned in radio school - theatre of the mind. So first question, we're talking about technology, employee engagement with technology. So I guess my first question is, and I asked all my guests these questions, so you're not special, Brandon. So I will ask you the first question is, what's the best or worst employee experience you've ever had?

Brandon Caudle
Oh, wow. So the best that I've ever had, I would say, actually, I was a guest that accompany Actually, I did go to Sweden to speak at a keynote as keynote for for a customer experience based conference there, they're very nice company flew me there and put me up. And they said, Hey, you want to come to our office and look at it for a day, you know, each other day earlier. So she can, you know, acclimate timezone before you got to speak and went to their office. And they have a custom, I believe it's only in Sweden from looking it up of this at least 10 in the morning, and there's some the afternoon to coffee called fika FYI, K, which is coffee spelled backwards and drop the drop the letter, there's a huge, huge story about overthrowing the fear of overthrowing the government way back when and how think it came to be, I just thought it was very cool this employee experience that everyone stopped working. And they got together, they're in their little kitchen, and everyone had coffee and a pastry. And they just talked about things. And literally, like 10 minutes later, it's like, everyone just left and went back. And I'm like, this was cool. And so I actually introduced it on my team, in our non peak seasons, to figure Fridays, and we were only able to do a few last year, but we're trying, we're hoping that we'll be able to do them again this year where people can just get off the phones, get on video, no matter where they are in the US have a coffee or like in my case here a green tea, and just talk. And the important thing is that that leadership, we jump in, say hi, and then we leave. So people can talk about whatever they want to they want to talk about the latest movie that came out, they want to talk about who went skiing, whatever it is, but I felt that that was a cultural, a cultural employee experience that seems to be very common in Sweden. And and I enjoyed a little bit here in the US.

Russel Lolacher
So I'm trying to understand why do you think technology is going to make employee engagement workplace culture better?

Brandon Caudle
I'm glad you actually asked me that. So kind of Google shout out for my my high school way back when and I actually was in the computer science club. There were I think five of us if I go get the yearbook. So think some very old, very old, early personal computers, not mainframe wasn't Bill Gates level. And so the technology that we had then compared to today, and that's kind of really where I'm coming from 30 plus years of how technology has changed and made for better the employee experience the workplace, relationships, that workplace, but it also there's the flip side of the coin, it can also make it worse. So I am someone who tries to leverage the good in technology, while recognizing that there'll be parts that might might not be so good. And so I think that technology, and here's my big, my big thing I've been trying to do for a while with folks is it's a force multiplier. It is something that when used in a correct way and I say ah because there's not just the when it's used in a correct way, one of many possible correct ways. It really can make employee relationships, peer to peer supervisory. And by extension, with customers, it can make them so much better. But we have to watch out because it can also be worse.

Russel Lolacher
So I guess, if you're an organization, and you're looking at your employee engagement, and you're looking okay, man, we got to improve this. What kind of problems do you think would be fixed by incorporating technology into the organization?

Brandon Caudle
Well, first thing I think that it can fix doesn't mean it will, is communication. Communication is one of the biggest problems and all relationships, work, personal relationships, you know, communication is a big deal, misunderstanding people. So going back, you know, I like to think and I will talk to folks like, Okay, think about the first job you've ever had, right. And now that might be different from my kids, their first job wasn't that long ago. But for many of us, maybe maybe were in our 30s, or 40s, or 50s, or 60s or 70s, listening to this, our first job, if we were going to call out, we were sick, we probably have to pick up a phone, the phone might be cordless, it might have a long cord, it's stuck on a kitchen wall and your mom, you know, if there's a high school job you that, hey, don't take that phone down the hallway. And we'd have to call, we have to wait for somebody to pick up. We might have to, you know, okay, they didn't call that a call back out and make sure they know that I'm sick today. This is just one simple example today, way different world. So are for instance, on a team that that I run those teams know if you're, if you're going to be out doesn't matter. Are you sick is your child's sick, do you gotta go do something emergency yet, you're not mentally here, you can't do this work today. Even in the middle of the night, you just text us you text your supervisor, you text the other supervisor, you include me on it, and, boom, it's so much easier. And of course, whatever process there are, so like, if you don't get an answer back in five minutes, you need to call even if it's even if it's in the middle of the night and be like, Hey, I'm at, I'm at the ER, you know, I take my mom and I take my kid, you know, I don't feel good. I can't do it. We're gonna be like, Okay, we got it. And we'll, we will groggily you know, get online and let the rest of the team know that that's happening. But that's just one example of how technology gives time back to the to the employee of you don't have to do this. i It's very rare now that we find an employee who doesn't have a smartphone. I did have one a few years ago. And I remember the day that he announced to us that he was getting a smartphone, we were like, Whoa, we have no party there at work. Like this is cool. He's getting a smartphone. And then he shared pictures with us when he goes on vacation with his kids and, and family and things like that. So I would say that's just an example of how technology can make it easier. I know there's a whole deep topic there about texting. And do you have to respond after work. There's a whole bunch we can go into if there's time later. Because it's not necessarily cut and dry. It can be used for good and I chose to give you the good side. They're not the can be used for Skynet.

Russel Lolacher
When I think of technology, there's texts. There's also chat, like, for instance, like programs like teams is one. People also use Skype, which I hear is going away. If it hasn't already. By the time somebody listens to this podcast. There's this asynchronous. I think that's the right one or synchronous, asynchronous anyway, it's it's the way of communicating so people can do this chat. I mean, text is kind of that as well. Where do you feel the technology fits well, and hurts when it comes to communication?

Brandon Caudle
I actually had to go look up the history of chat to figure out when did I first use chat and in the late 90s, AOL ai m, and then Yahoo, messenger and MSN. And then we get forwarded to corporations started using it in the 2000s. And we had Skype. And I remember when I was introduced to jabber, and how all the different ones were, it never turned off. And you would leave work or sign off. And at that time, I was working with a software company, a small software company, and you might close your phone or your laptop at 1030 at night. And overnight, those developers are working and they're posting that said exactly, and I'm probably going to massacre the word to a synchronous, I believe, communication. It was, hey, I've got this code for this customer I'm working on I posted this and GitHub can somebody take a look at it. And so there was that channel, in the in the in the company's communication that we used and it in the morning, maybe at 5am, maybe somebody on the East Coast woke up and said, Oh, I know how to do that. And they would put their code in there. And so that was my first real big introduction to that. Because I think before that, in the 2000s, companies kind of just dabbled in it. It was like, Hey, this is cool, you can chat. But we were still stuck on this thing of like, well, maybe I'll walk down the hallway and talk to Sally. Or maybe I'll call Janine on the phone, because she's in Pennsylvania, and I'm in Seattle. And so when teams and slack entered the chat, when they came along, that was really revolutionary, because it all of a sudden, you know, built up built up built up for them, boom, everybody's using them. And I, I think that these are powerful, not just for asynchronous communication, but I'm gonna say near real time, like milliseconds off of real time, communicating amongst your team. And I have a very specific example that I wanted to share as soon as you asked me, way back in the olden days, like in 2019. When I when I worked in an office, we had some folks that were in our office here in Southern California. And we had many folks who were scattered across the United States, and other countries, offshore folks, in various places. And so sometimes, as I was walking down, walking to my desk, walking to talk, somebody get some help, I would notice a support person who might turn to their coworker, their colleague and say, hey, you know, I had a question, how do you do this? So we had kind of a little fun. Why would you know, they would talk it out. And I go, Hey, Janelle, Bob, I had a question. And they all knew what this was. So it was no, no harm met. Do you hate the rest of the people on the team? are like, Well, no, I love them. They're great. Like, why do you keep that information from them? Because they probably want to know how to do that as well. They want to know how to solve that technical issue. And they're like, yeah, and then they would turn and they would put it in that teams, or slack or whatever chat, they would put it in there. So everybody else could see it. Well, with the pandemic. So little over two years ago, everybody went home, everybody went remote. Now, that doesn't mean everybody we still know some people were commuting in and doing this. But all of a sudden, we're asking all the questions in our work, chat in teams in Slack in other tools, as well. And we're putting out there in a channel that says like, here's your support channel, here's your software channel. Here's whatever it is. And we're saying, Hey, I'm working on this ticket and this knowledge article. And I got to step three, and this doesn't work. And all of a sudden, 70 people are like, Whoa, I had that yesterday, too. And then you're getting somebody with the knowledge who's near real time, you know, they might actually have their eyeballs on another screen. And they might have a customer near but they're saying, oh, yeah, here you go, the server changed. Let me update it. And so boom, all of a sudden, it's like, we get 70 or 50, or 20, however, many people in a room, but it's very Neo matrix, and they were almost all plugged in to that conversation. And so that's one of the good examples that I feel strongly based on data that we see not just in my company, but talking with others. That knowledge knowledge, centered service, KCS took a huge leap forward with support, all kinds of support, technical support, customer experience, as far as like a contact centers, it took a huge leap forward in the year 2020. Because we were forced into well, I can't turn to Janelle, but I'm going to chat it and that way everybody can see it. And some really forward companies have even taken those chats and said, Hey, we're gonna put a little feature in here. So that if you want to make that into a knowledge article, you just highlight it and click the button. And then it makes a knowledge article. Sure. We can clean it up later and put screenshots in and augment it. But it's just a force multiplier, because all of a sudden, you got everybody's brain. It's almost like a hive mind in there just. It's swarms. And you can see people are posting screenshots. Yeah, look at this on the server. Hey, look. And so I think that there's a tremendous potential that we've unleashed, and I don't ever see it going back.

Russel Lolacher
It's fantastic. I love that you, and I appreciate that you've done this, is that you said that it's not about knowledge transfer it is. But what it's about is almost this tapping into immediacy of community. It's this suddenly you've got 70 minds either reviewing information they need it, or they can add almost like an organic wiki in the moment as it's sort of happening. But also it sort of flies in the face of a lot of people that says, well, we don't have culture unless we're all in the same room? Well, I know people that are literally on the Slack channels to somebody that is three doors down from them that they can easily get up and move to their seat. But within that community of knowledge transfer, it's shared by everyone to the community, as opposed to those two people face to face. I love that work.

Brandon Caudle
Now don't get me wrong, Russel, there is still a lot of and I've heard many companies over the past two years say, hey, we couldn't adjust, you know, our, like accountants or underwriters or something that's like, they would walk down the hall, they were in Pittsburgh, unable to walk down a hall. You know, I've heard so many friends colleagues, like, people couldn't adjust. They couldn't adjust to well, can you pick up the phone? And it wasn't that they could not? It was just a habit change, right? They'd walked down the hall for 22 years. And it asked, you know, hey, Srikesh, can you help me? And to be quite honest, many people still struggle with that many people still yearn for that. So, you know, I don't know if this is a spoiler for anybody in the podcast, but we have not yet developed time travel. So you know, we cannot...

Russel Lolacher
Spoilers, Brandon. Spoilers. Go ahead...

Brandon Caudle
So, we cannot go back to 2019. In processes in, in different things. Instead, what we need to do is multiply what we have to to try and go forward and make it better and use the the chat for good, not that. I mean, there's I don't know if we want to bring it up. But there's actually a bad side as well to that.

Russel Lolacher
No, absolutely. I mean, that's the I'm thinking right away of, you know, being that accessible. All the time through chat could also have some scary ramifications. What do you have? For example, what do you think?

Brandon Caudle
Well, I don't know. I don't have it on top of me. But for instance, I think a couple of countries in Europe did it. And I think maybe a couple of states is, is actually passed laws that said, Hey, if you're an hourly employee, and not exempt from overtime, your boss can't call you after work. You can't just say, Hey, you want to do this? Because right, every law comes out of something, there was exactly what you said. And that software company I mentioned a long time ago. That was that was kind of the pain is but it's always on. And hey, we'll help you install it on your phone. So you can always respond. And so that can be a problem. But this kind of leads into the biggest spoiler of all, which is technology is an enabler or an exacerbated, but it's not the solution at the core is the me and you, the humans, at the core is still well, are we just taking a bad process and making it faster? Or are we thinking well, what's our process? What should we do? And so that's a great example, you know, great thing you brought up. And I will say, I have seen this, if anybody wants to head over some of the forums online, you can see some horror stories that are posted on a near minute basis by companies around the world and people saying, hey, my boss is doing this. Because, yes, you know, we have I see places where people like I refuse to give up my cell number, you can't contact me that way. Why? Because it's not be honest. It's a horrible place. Nobody, I wouldn't give him my cell phone, I would give him a burner number, right? And so it kind of comes back to well, what's the processes underneath, because the technology chat in this case, is just going to exacerbate Imagine, imagine a boss walking down the hall every five minutes, and literally tapping you on the shoulder be like, Hey, I know you're busy, but I need to do something. So you can never actually do your work, you're being interrupted. Now do that with a ding, ding, ding, or on chat popping up constantly. So we have to harness and leverage chat, in this case, for good, we have to figure out what works best. And your team will tell you, you know, your co workers will tell you what works and what doesn't work. There's a nice middle of the bell curve like 80% that everybody's gonna agree over. Here's the ones you like, well, I can't keep up with that. I think they write scripts to make the responses faster. And over here, the ones that can I say Luddite? No, I don't mean that in a bad way. But folks that just maybe this is not do your job maybe should not involve hands on keyboard, maybe there's something else that you're better at and we got to get you to there. But there's a nice healthy bell curve. It'll tell you like, Hey, this is what works for us. It doesn't work to get Ding ding ding at 11 at night. Sometimes though, with chat, right? It's like well, don't install the company app on your phone, your hourly, you when you log on at eight in the morning on your time you You know, eight in the morning, Central Time, Eastern Time, that's when you chat. If we need you, we will call you be like, Hey, we got a big emergency, I'm I pay you overtime, we do this. But that big emergencies to be like once a quarter, once a year, it shouldn't be an often thing. And again, that comes back to the person behind it. And that's a different thing. We can't, we can't yet fix them. I'm waiting for those neural implants when those happen, then maybe we can help people. That's a big joke for anybody that can't see us laughing.

Russel Lolacher
It's interesting, too, because we're talking about accessibility, we're talking about misuse of technology. So if you have say, not the best workplace culture, suddenly that workplace culture is still bleeding into your life past when you're technically supposed to be off. So it's that responsiveness that on demand, that lack of respect for time and boundaries, that technology is kind of enabling in these situations.

Brandon Caudle
It is it's exacerbating way long ago, like 10 years ago, I was in a company that had a couple of couple of executives, that probably we're not the best executives or people, you know, quite honestly, I think if you if you hired a camera crew to follow them around, I think that people, people, if they watched that show they built, they would send them hate mail, they're really bad. And so they used to do things like bed checks, right? They come around at 805. Is everybody busy at their desk? You know, if you're not your desk, where are you? I'm in this conference room in a meeting. And at 415. They go around, and they see you know, who's left? And technology can exacerbate that. Think about if you have a manager or vice president who's you know, always checking your status and slack or teams, why isn't this person here? Why isn't this person here? And so that literally just exacerbates it? Because they can always your green, your red? Why are you yellow? Because it had to go peepee.

Russel Lolacher
So it suddenly becomes a big brother situation?

Brandon Caudle
It is I'm sure that you you heard of the big surveillance that company, some companies, and we're implementing, to see well, How long since you moved your mouse and got even worse in in higher ed, I don't I don't believe the K 12 system here in the US had it. But in higher ed, you know, read some real horror stories and articles about tracking your eyes, so that you can see what you're doing during taking a test. Now, that's that's a little bit of a different thing, right? We're talking about the thick of the pandemic, the first year really, hell lot, lot, lot of bad stuff going on there. And that was to, to make sure when someone's taken a test that they're not, you know, like, Hey, can you look this up for me? You know, that's taken a test at home. But so I don't want to I don't want to really get to the higher ed but rather the Imagine now your workplace having a camera on all the time because I have seen those examples as well as well. What Why? Why weren't you at your desk? I'm like, Well, I put up there, I gotta go the bathroom. Like, Oh, okay. But why would you even ask that we have? You know, I think that's one of the it's not a segue. I'm not taking us away from it. But the whole return to the office. I have a really good executive C level that she said last year, I think it might have been late 2020. She said, Work is what we do. It's not where we go to she, she nailed it. So when people say like, I don't, I don't know what my teammates doing, or more managers like, I don't know what my team is doing. Do you do? Do you spend 40 hours a week with each person? Like how do you know what they're doing all the time? Let's let's let's go back to 2018 19. How did you know what they're doing? If the answer is wild, walk around and see what they're doing. Like, the moment you walk to the next person, how did you know what that person was doing? Most heads explode at that point. But you should have some type of output, right? You should have some type of productivity you're selling, you're supporting, you're doing you're processing claims Jeremy is something that's quantifiable, as opposed to well, it was 807. Where were you when you were getting coffee? Can't you coffee at 759. And so tech exacerbates that now right? Have that green read your your Hey, are you are you in a meeting? Can I talk to you like, Yeah, I'm actually on a call with a customer. We're trying to fix their software. We're trying to close this deal. So it definitely exacerbates Russell. And I think that that goes back to as humans, we got to change our behavior, right.

Russel Lolacher
So with chat and new technology, and I hate to bring up generational stuff, because I don't find it to be a generational thing when it comes to people's comfort level with these technologies, because I know people in their 30s and 20s They're like, I'm an idiot when it comes to technology, and I know people that are 60s and 70s going, flying past me. So it's not a generational thing, but it is a Luddite thing. It is a, I'm not comfortable with that. I'm just gonna send you another email again. So how do you? How do you introduce new chat technologies to an organization when you do have different levels of comfort to them?

Brandon Caudle
Oh, yeah, it's definitely not generational. I actually take great umbrage every time people either say like, oh, Boomer, or a millennial, because I'm a Gen X. Nobody knows about us. But we created everything. If you go look at like, all the big companies, all those people that started all that was Gen Xers. So a shout out to Gen X? I don't I don't believe that it's generational at all. I believe it's just different skill sets, right? Nobody who is I don't know, in the workforce today as an adult, was born with a smartphone. And yet somehow we've all adapted to at least doing a certain level of communication, right? People like oh, yeah, FaceTime my grandkids all the time on here. So a new technology like chat, I think is best approached with, Hey, we got something new. We're gonna roll it out. Or maybe we have it, but we're gonna roll out some extra cool stuff. Like one example is my work seasonally, we'll put new backgrounds into teams that you can use. So for around, maybe maybe around Thanksgiving time, I'm not sure when they drop them in there, you get some kind of a wintry Christmas see things, you know, like a Santa have. Actually, it's a snowman, you know, and like, like, there's a beach one because we're offices in Southern California. And so people like and they they don't really announce them, they just drop them in. And so neighbors will tell people, maybe maybe they are in an office sitting next to each other and processing stuff. Maybe they're just, you know, they chat every day. And they're like, hey, Ella, did you see the new background? But go on video I gotta show you. And all of a sudden, like, Hey, what are you doing? That's awesome. How'd you get that? And so you put out the good stuff like that. My company actually makes short videos, I think we call a minute what I'll do I know we call minute Mondays. Now we're about 60 seconds. And you know what we spent a whopping few $100 to buy software. And we got somebody actually not on my team. But another service desk. This gentleman is excellent. And he makes these videos. It's not him on it. It's literally showing you how to click through and how to do how to install this on your phone. How to do this. So people are like, boom, got it. So let's say somebody's email, that was your example, somebody emails. I might ping him back on chat, and be like, hey, Joella, I got your email. You got a second to talk. I got a question about it. I figured this might be faster. It might take a second. It might take an hour, but it might I'll see the typing. Joel is like yeah, hey, you want to call? I'm like, You bet. What's better for you, your your desk phone or your soft phone? Or a cell phone? Or just right here? You know, you want to do the audio call? You said Oh, no, here's fine. And let's hit the little button and we'll call but you're you're guiding them through it. Because if someone says, I'm just not comfortable that like no problem, what's your desk phone? I'll call you on that. So you don't force them, but you kind of incent them through. And we've got phenomenal people who will do that and say, Hey, can I can I give you a call on this? And I agree that it's not it's not an age thing. It's just a different skill set. Right?

Russel Lolacher
What's the future for engaging technology for engaging at work through platforms like chat and video conferencing? What is are we in the metaverse? Like where are we going with this?

Brandon Caudle
Companies that embrace technology, embrace flexible work arrangements are already outpacing other companies. In order to work remotely, there's some requirements right? You have to have high speed internet, it has to be dependable. So that's a that's like a that's a non starter like well, I don't have it like well then you can drive into the office. So embracing embracing flexible working arrangements to maybe you want to work at home, maybe you want to work at home Monday Tuesday seeing drop your kid off. Maybe it's you want to come into the office, but making it so that technology is an enabler of things and not a detractor lot of companies trying to really roll out the red carpet for getting people back in the office. You know, hey, we've got like sit stand workstations now we spend a lot of money and you can come in and sit stand some companies like we got hotel cubes, you can reserve a cube. You can reserve it reserved, like a working office if you want. You can do all this but basically using the technology as something that's good as a Post to some of the bad things we talked about like, well, we're going to surveil you, we're going to scrape your data, and we're going to punish you with it. Those companies just keep falling further and further behind. You know, I've got unlimited examples of how that has that has tried to happen, they generally end up on the news. If they're public, their stock tumbles, if they're private people throw tomatoes, virtual tomatoes at them. So it's using the technology for good, using chat using video, using open data and applications, things of that nature.

Russel Lolacher
Well, I'm gonna leave it there. But before we go any further, what's the one simple action that people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Brandon Caudle
Reach out to somebody at work that you haven't talked to in a while. Maybe haven't talked to him in a week, maybe a month, maybe it's been a year reach out to him? Chat good. Call on him is good. Like, Hey, call their desk phone, you know, that they'll surprise them? When's the last time they got a call on the desk phone? It lets they work a lot with outside, you know, a context. And I do that also, kind of in a personal life. Like I'll call folks from that tech Association. And I'll leave voicemail I call one of their Hey, Tom, how's it going? You know, this thought about you want to call you. He's actually the host of that podcast, or live stream that I used to produce. And so that's the biggest thing in work. You want to improve your work relationships. It's all down the people. It's reaching out sending a simple chat of hey, Sue, how you doing? I just want to see if you got a second. Yeah, what's up? Get on the call, Hey, I just haven't talked to you in two years. How are things going? Sometimes that's a two minute call. Sometimes it's an hour. Sometimes it builds a bridge that later you're like, I am grateful that I built that bridge that really helped me in my work, work environment.

Russel Lolacher
Well, that'll do it. I appreciated using technology to communicate with you ourselves today, Brandon. So that'll do it for this episode. Thanks so much for your time, man.