As the current situation has left us working from home and adjusting to a new normal, our Director Aly Finkle started a conversation with CJ Maurer, the owner of a marketing agency called The Gist. CJ and Aly discussed how businesses are adjusting to the current climate. They also shared their thoughts about how this may have a lasting impact on talent management, networking and the business climate in general. Below you can watch the video or read the full conversation transcript.
All right, here we go. Hi CJ. Thanks for jumping on video today. As you know I'm Aly with SelectOne. We wanted to do something a little different. I feel like this is honestly your time to shine. You've been preaching that we should be doing video for months and months and months now, and I guess it only took a global pandemic to help us realize the value of a video. Thanks for agreeing to hop on. Admittedly, this is my first foray into video. But I thought this would be a great opportunity just to connect and talk through what we're seeing at SelectOne, as we reconnect with our clients about just the hiring landscape, and more broadly the business environment. I know you're doing the same with a lot of your marketing clients and your partners. I wanted to have a conversation today about what we're seeing out there. Thanks for jumping on.
CJ Maurer: (01:02)
My pleasure, Aly. Thanks for including me. You were talking earlier about how you're somebody who really thrives around connecting and networking and being around people. I'm somebody who also feels that way, and certainly this aspect of the isolation is hard on me. I think part of it is, before we even get into what we're going to talk about, just the simple fact that we're connecting in this way I think is important. I think it's really important that we maintain some semblance of connection and interaction, aside from the fact that I think that what we talk about could actually be valuable to the people. I'm excited about this.
Aly Finkle: (01:47)
In my head there's been so much content over the last three weeks about how to conduct a good virtual meeting. Is your lighting right? Should I look into the camera, not the computer screen? I'm like all that's running through my mind. This is great, because I really do think, and I think we'll touch on this in a couple of minutes. This is going to be the future of business. I think companies are going to realize that this is what they're going to have to do for the foreseeable future, in terms of conducting meetings and having conversations.
Aly Finkle: (02:23)
It's funny, for so long we have been preaching to our clients, there needs to be acknowledgement that candidates want to be able to work remote, and there can be significant meaningful work done if they're not present in the office. All of that seems to be now just that big aha moment for all these companies, that truly in fact a lot can get done virtually. Employees and employers can be very effective in progressing businesses if they're not seated. That's not the case for a number of organizations, manufacturing, healthcare we know. But for a large part of the business world, I think they're realizing that they is still can maintain a semblance of normalcy through this virtual world.
CJ Maurer: (03:09)
I think you really hit the nail on the head. My business is, for those of you that don't know, my business is The Gist. We are a marketing and growth agency. SelectOne is one of my partners. That's how we got connected, that's how we work together. Another one of my partners is, he's a CEO. He knows that he's had some requests from some of his employees to work from home. Not a lot, but a couple of them have said, "Hey, I would like to work from home more. I feel like it would fit my lifestyle better. I feel like I could be just as productive if not more productive." He admitted to me recently over another one of these video chats, that he was hesitant to do this. But he's also got a couple of small kids at home. One of the things that he realized is there are benefits to all of this.
CJ Maurer: (03:58)
He told me very point blank, "CJ, I just realized that I don't need to be in the office 40 hours a week or 50 hours a week to run this company. I think that when this all subsides, I'm probably going to work from home one or two days a week. I'm probably also going to institute a policy that enables my employees who can work from home to do the same." I think that is absolutely something that businesses are going to realize. There is the immediate acute change, where everybody's working from home right now, unless you're in essential business, unless you absolutely have to. If you're a doctor, if you work in sanitation, if you work in manufacturing, whatever. There's that.
CJ Maurer: (04:46)
But then once it's over, I think especially because of the financial implications, businesses are going to be looking at how much money they spend on things like rent. Do we really need this much office space? I think they're also going to audit another very important asset, which is time. We don't think a lot about 30 minutes as a commute to work as really being a big deal in this country. But when you think about it, if you do that twice a day for five days a week, that's five hours a week. Now, Aly I know you're a pretty productive person. I know that about you. What would you do if somebody magically gave you five more hours in your week? You would absolutely be more productive, am I right?
Aly Finkle: (05:32)
100%. I have been I think just... I just feel a little bit more relaxed that I haven't been mindful every morning I have to get in the car by 7:30 to get... I've just been able to instantly shift to like, okay, here's what I have to do for the day. I can eliminate some of these other things that took a lot of extra of my brain power to plan. I've been able to channel that into what I have felt has been more productive things, and to thinking about our business at SelectOne, or thinking about my kids in a different way. It's been a really interesting shift, and man as someone that commutes from Lewiston to Buffalo on a daily basis, it's been a gift from that perspective actually.
CJ Maurer: (06:20)
I'm glad you brought up the kids. Because one of the things that we were talking about before we decided to jump on this and do a recording is, I mean we both have two small children about the same age. We both experience the challenges of trying to work with them home. We have some coverage with the babysitter, we've actually reduced her from full-time to part-time, because it just doesn't make sense for her to be here full-time. Plus with some uncertainty about income. Fortunately my business is doing okay, my wife's business is doing okay. But we want to take some preventative measures because we don't know exactly what's happening.
CJ Maurer: (06:58)
We've been able to have some coverage, but there certainly have been some challenges. That part is challenging. That's also why I don't think that everybody's going to work from home all the time forever now. Because there's a lot to be gained with having the option to adjust your environment for how you need it to be in a certain moment. But I can totally relate to that. The mornings are so much more calm. That to me really has been the biggest difference. I also don't mind staying up a little bit later. If I get distracted and I want to jump back on after the kids go to bed, I don't mind staying up a little bit later because I know the morning isn't as hectic and things like that. That's-
Aly Finkle: (07:40)
You're not on the schedule. To the point of I have kids too, it's hard to work at home with kids, it just is. From that perspective, I don't know if that's a sustainable set up. I think it's obviously individually dependent on your childcare situation. It's been really nice to spend more time with them. I have confirmed what I've always believed about myself, that I am not built to spend 40 hours a week plus with my children. I appreciate them more I think when I'm not with them all the time. I think it'll be an interesting adjustment for people to reevaluate I think their pre-COVID life, and their post-COVID life, to figure out how they find some combination of like this is what worked before and during and after, and here's how I want my future schedule to look once we do regain some normalcy.
CJ Maurer: (08:35)
I agree completely. My kids are four and two. My daughter's in pre-K. That's the other thing that I've been thinking about. When your kids get older, maybe they don't interrupt your Zoom calls as much. But there's a lot of people out there who have kids who need to do schoolwork, and are having video chats with their teachers, and they have to do math homework and things like that. I couldn't imagine having to manage that on top of everything that we do. There's very basic, like she basically gets craft activities from her teacher. My son, he actually has hearing loss, and so he has a weekly appointment with a speech therapist and a teacher of the deaf, because he's got cochlear implants. He's learning how to do all of that. They do video chats and it's fantastic. But just that and the homework that we have to do with him throughout the day, makes me realize how much harder it would be if our kids were four or five years older, and they're in the throws of reading and math.
Aly Finkle: (09:40)
To plan a real schedule it seems. Interesting segue that you just alluded to that I wanted to chat with you about. Before there's far too much fatigue around what is post-COVID world going to look like. Because I think we're starting... I know personally I'm starting to get a little bit fatigued by all the overload of like I think the first two weeks were like, okay, here's how you optimize working from home. Here's how you maintain, you facilitate a really productive virtual meeting. You stay engaged, you maintain. To now, it's like okay, what is business maybe going to look like post- COVID when we go back? When is it safe to go back? What are some predictions? One of the things you were just talking about that I've started to think about, how is this really going to shift our culture, and shift the way we do things?
Aly Finkle: (10:34)
I have a couple of ideas, but one of the things I was thinking was telemedicine should likely take off. People are realizing much. They can conduct normal business, telemedicine like you've been able to hold pretty productive it sounds like sessions for your son, therapy sessions with your son. Maybe telemedicine is going to really explode knowing that there can be valuable virtual interactions between healthcare providers and people at home, so you don't need to rush to the doctor. That's one of a myriad of predictions that I know are out there and then I have. What are you thinking about in terms of how things are going to look on the other side of this? It can be a number of things from a business perspective, culturally, socially.
CJ Maurer: (11:27)
Telemedicine is a great point. I wasn't even thinking about that, but you're absolutely right. Now that you mention it, I was on a video chat with a friend of mine with a group of friends from high school. My one friend, she moved out to Oregon not too long ago, and she was telling me how she was showing her doctor her tonsils or her throat or something like that, through telemedicine. She said it was the first time she ever did that. She used to like open wide, moving towards the camera. She said it felt a little awkward at first, but it worked. She was able to get diagnosed, and prescribed some type of medication, and she was feeling fine, all that stuff. It worked. I absolutely think that's going to happen.
CJ Maurer: (12:07)
In terms of how I think this is going to leave a lasting impact on the American workforce, or just like business and the economy in general. I can't say for sure, but I definitely do have some thoughts. Most of the ways I think about it are in relation to how most I would say white collar business is conducted, because quite frankly that's the world that I live in. One of the things I think which I would say almost everybody is predicting, is that remote workforce is going to increase significantly. I don't think there's any two ways about it. It already has been. I know you guys have been talking to your clients about strategies for reaching out to recruiting and hiring remote workers, and how to make accommodations for them within the business. I think that's number one.
CJ Maurer: (13:03)
There are more tools than ever to make it easy to work from remote. I'll give you another example. I don't have an office. I'm sitting in my office. When I started my marketing business, the end of last year, I didn't have an office space. I planned to get some this year. I think maybe that'll be delayed, but it'll still be in my plans at some point. This has not been a dramatic shift in how I do business. There's a lot of other people like me. I can very easily reach out to and conduct meetings with businesses. I have a special calendar link already, I've been using this for months. Somebody can book a time on my calendar, and it automatically creates an invite in both of our calendars, with a link to access the Zoom meeting.
CJ Maurer: (13:49)
I just send somebody a link, they book it where there's a free time on my calendar, and then all I do is show up. That's one example of many different technologies that make it so much easier for people to work remote. I know you guys have employees that live outside of Buffalo, so you've already been accommodating for that. One it's again, it's remote work. The other is I think how meetings are conducted. I've already alluded to this, but I think moving forward when there's a meeting, what's way less important about the meeting is where everybody is when the meeting is happening. What's way more important about the meeting is that there's an agenda in place, the right people are there, and everybody is present and focused.
CJ Maurer: (14:35)
That the meeting served the purpose it was intended to when it was scheduled. You don't need to all be in the same conference room in order for that meeting to be effective. So I think you need most likely have a link for anybody to access who is not present. Maybe you send it out. Let's just say this is for a business that has all of its employees report to the same office. Maybe it's 10 employees they all live in Buffalo. But I think all meetings will have a link to access remotely, because maybe you don't know who's going to be working remote that day or not. You have the meeting, it's in everyone's calendar, and then everybody either shows up in the conference room, or is there virtually and the meeting gets done.
CJ Maurer: (15:22)
The last thing I think about really is like office space and how that's structured. I think that because again, we alluded to this, I'm not somebody who wants to work from home all the time. I love having the option. I love having the flexibility. I don't think I could ever go back to a world where I only did work in an office. That just seems so weird and outdated to me. But there are times where it's just, it's better to be in an office. You can be more productive. You have to take a meeting.
CJ Maurer: (15:51)
There are certain activities that are better to be conducted in person. What I envision is probably more like most businesses eventually getting to a place where employees are remote, in the sense where they can work from wherever they want. They're set up to work from home, and then at the office it has maybe some private offices, but more of like a public co-workings type space. Where people can come in and out, and that's what it is. The priority and the focus is on the work that's getting done, not on where it's specifically happening. That's what I think.
Aly Finkle: (16:27)
I just got off a meeting with the rest of the team, and we were again talking big picture pie in the sky, where are things going? What do we have to start thinking about in terms of our business strategy? Now that we're a month into this, and companies are now I think starting to think about the future, versus addressing pressing in the moment issues. One of the things that we talked about was commercial office space. How's that going to be affected by the fact that people are going to work remotely? Is the idea of culture still going to be a big deal? There was so much talk. Almost every client that we talk to as we were partnering with them to help them find exceptional talent, was like we have this great culture that we want to maintain.
Aly Finkle: (17:13)
Finding that culture fit was always really, really important for SelectOne. We had a number of tools and gotten strategies we use to help identify talent through behavioral testing, and situational based interview step questioning. Because culture is such this buzzword. Are companies going to realize that it doesn't really matter about culture anymore, it's just about getting work done? I don't know if that's going to be this big shift, because people are going to be a little bit more disparate. You're not going to have the luxury of a ping-pong table or the fridge. There isn't going to be that physical, tangible culture of all being together. Is that going to be as important to employers and employees? Because maintaining culture virtually, from a distance, it's going to be tough.
Aly Finkle: (18:04)
Virtual happy hours that's going to wear off I think pretty quickly. It's cool now, it's great. But I just wonder how this is all going to affect that idea or the importance and emphasis around culture. That's one thing. I think companies, at least in conversations I've had with partners and internally, I think this may be an interesting opportunity for businesses out there to really take a step back, evaluate their talent, figure out did we need that position? Was this person in the right position? They are going to have some really, I think not difficult but serious, serious conversations, and take a serious look at their talent. Take the opportunity to reevaluate and see, did we need that person? Did we need this role? How can we shift that person?
Aly Finkle: (18:59)
That'll be interesting to see how that shakes out on the end of that too. Again, we think about things now like how do you... One of the blogs that we actually just put out this morning and today, is about how do you give candidates the support, the comfort, and make them feel okay with making a transition to a company during a time of change? That's going to be interesting as well. Then you have all those other factors of unemployment and the stimulus bill. I think that all has to shake out. But we're really thinking about at SelectOne, how do we have meaningful conversations with our clients about continuing to have a strong employee brand, and attracting the right talent? How do you integrate someone virtually and from afar into that culture, into the organization? What does pre-boarding look like? Onboarding look like? Because I think that is going to be a major, major responsibility of businesses moving forward.
CJ Maurer: (20:12)
I agree. I love the point you make about culture and I think about this a lot. I think it's like a chicken and egg scenario. You talked about culture, and how much does that matter, versus how much does productivity matter? What I wonder is, are businesses productive because they have a good culture? Or do businesses have a good culture because everybody's productive and smart and hardworking and things like that? Personally, I believe it's both. I think that having a good culture makes people feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusiveness, and they want to work harder for something that they identify with in that way. As humans, we're very tribal. I happen to be of the mindset that culture is usually more the result than it is the cause.
CJ Maurer: (21:04)
It's like with sports teams. You can have the same people and the same intentions. If you have a bad season, it would feel like you have less of a culture, if you have a good season, you can obviously relate to this as a division one lacrosse player. When you're successful, that culture happens. I think usually more often than that, even though I do believe it goes both ways. I'm generally of the mindset that when you're more productive and you have the right people, and you have smart, hardworking people in the right positions as your business, and together you are achieving and being productive, then the culture becomes great. I think that people will again realize that you can still have a good culture even if you're not physically there.
CJ Maurer: (21:52)
I think ideally, for the sake of culture, having people together in the same place is great. Most of the time. There's some people who like, I've been in many situations where I've been interrupted. People just poke into my office and want to talk about stuff, and I could not be more inconvenienced by it because I'm working on something important. What does that have to do about... How does that make me feel about the culture? I think that having people together is great, but my wife's company they've been holding virtual happy hours at 4:00 o'clock every Friday. Where they all just sit around to Zoom, and grab a drink if you want it. They're maintaining culture that way. I think that when you have overall a productive business where employees feel valued, and they are productive, and that's recognized, and all of those things, I think positive culture happens as a result of getting that done first. I think that that can still happen with a remote enabled team.
Aly Finkle: (22:53)
Yeah. Interesting. As we continue down this road of an uncertain timeline in a sense. What do you think from... This is more of a personal question, not related a SelectOne. What do you think people want to see and hear about? One of the things I'm curious and I'm craving insight on is like, how do I continue to network? How do I continue to maintain my relationships? Nurture my relationships? When I can't go visit a client in person? When I can't go to events that I bump into people that naturally just strengthen the relationship? Not suggesting you have an absolute answer for this, but that's what I'm starting to think about too. As someone that's fueled by interactions and likes to take a business development type approach to things through relationship development, relationship nurturing. How do I network virtually? What does that look like?
CJ Maurer: (23:57)
This is a great question because I think it applies to both businesses and brands as well as individual employees. It starts with the recognition first and foremost that the traditional channels for promoting your business have been at least temporarily shut off. You can't visit your clients and they can't come to you. You can't go to networking events, the happy hours, the mixers, the breakfast meetings. The networking calendar has been canceled. Cold calling was already difficult to begin with, now it feels borderline inappropriate or offensive, or that you're not really in tune with the times. It may hurt you and or your brand more than it helps you. What are you just going to start doing TV ads? People were already canceling their cable subscriptions before this.
CJ Maurer: (24:47)
Now with incoming uncertainty, I wonder how fast people are going to start to cancel. That's really expensive. Not a knock on traditional advertising, I think it could still work. It just puts a lot of people in businesses in a bind, when you consider, all right, how am I going to connect with people? It really just comes down to using creativity, and using technology. Very simply put, if you want to attract and engage people and if you want to be present, add value and connect. The first thing you can do is focus on, how am I best suited? You can answer this as an individual as well as a business. How am I best suited to make some type of contribution to the world? For some people it's making videos, say, that teach parents how to teach their children to cook, right?
CJ Maurer: (25:37)
It's a bonding opportunity to learn things like that. For some people it's how to teach businesses how to make strategic adjustments in the workforce, and bring on talent that's going to best position them to be successful moving forward. There's those things, and there's everything in between. Then the question becomes is, now that you know what those contributions are, how can you make them? How can you share that with people? That's why I love having this chat with you, because it's very folk. We are talking a little bit about how businesses can bring on talent, can structure their talent, add new talents to respond to this. What we're also doing is having conversations that could be of use or just be interesting to other people who you are suited to help.
CJ Maurer: (26:23)
I think having conversations like this, recording them, putting it out there is great. I think writing blog posts is great. I think this is also a great time to have an email list, where you can communicate to people. There are tools where, if you don't want to email somebody or call somebody, but you want to let them know you've been thinking about them, or you can reach out to them in some way. You can create a one-on-one video and just say, “Hi Aly it’s CJ here, thinking of you. Hope you're doing well.” It basically requires one beginning with how you are uniquely suited to add value.
CJ Maurer: (26:57)
Then finding creative ways to disseminate that, that are going to break through the clutter. Simply firing off a bunch of emails or posting things on Facebook or LinkedIn, while not totally useless, is very similar to what a lot of other people are doing. You constantly want to look at how to zig when everyone else is zagging. I think this is a good example. Even though it seems like everybody has started a podcast these days, in the grand scheme of things, this type of content format, this peer-to-peer self-controlled content format is in its infancy. I believe that those people and brands who start it now and persist with it, will reap the benefits for years to come.
Aly Finkle: (27:42)
One of the things that we recently started doing to personalize our communication with our partners before this all started and throughout, has been creating video presentations of our candidates. It's helped add some, not legitimacy, but it's helped humanize I think some of the work that we do as recruiters and as partners in helping our clients really understand like, we heard you, here's the need. Here's how we were able to go out and find this really, really stellar candidate. Let me create a little video to help you understand this candidate's profile and resume. It's been really well received. People are just inundated with just documents and emails.
Aly Finkle: (28:26)
I can say I just appreciate your passion for video and why you've continued to promote that for SelectOne, because we've implemented in that way, and I think it's been really well received. Fundamentally, we are in the business to help people, help businesses accelerate their growth with exceptional people. We've helped candidates accelerate their career by connecting them with really outstanding opportunities. I think video has helped us create a better narrative around both of that, by personalizing the messaging through video versus the stale exchange of emails or resumes. Just a little anecdote there to how we started using that at SelectOne and it's been fun.
CJ Maurer: (29:16)
It is. It always feels weird and difficult at first. Not framing and the lighting. I don't have the perfect lighting either. [crosstalk 00:29:26] my office back behind me. That's where it is so I'm not going to move it. I will live with slightly less than perfect lighting. Once you get the hang of it and you realize that you are the most critical person of yourself, and that most of it is good if you're well-intentioned and well-planned, then it's great. Something else you made me think of real quick. I think that this whole situation is going to see a lot of businesses adopt live chat on their websites. You've already seen a growing adoption of chatbots in live chat. I think now when sales teams are, even outside sales teams are forced to retreat inside, they're spending more time by their phones or their computers.
CJ Maurer: (30:11)
I think businesses are going to see the benefit of helping people get answers immediately, and connecting with people immediately. There's fewer excuses to delay it. I think that's another really great opportunity to add more value, and reduce the friction in the buying process, and provide a better experience for people who want to engage with you or your brand. I think that similar to remote work, I think that's something you'll see it if it's tracked. I doubt it is. If there was such a thing as percentage of websites or businesses with a live chat feature on their website, I think you'll see a noticeable uptick around this, if you were to take a look at it several years.
Aly Finkle: (30:58)
Cool. Well, I thought this was great. I loved chatting. I told you when I first joined, some days I'm just a little bit drained by the isolation of it. I came admittedly onto this call this morning just being like, “Okay, what I'm I going to accomplish today? What I'm I going to do?” I was feeling a little drained and this energized me. One of the things I've learned about myself being in the field of recruiting and talent acquisition, is just the important of identifying strengths, and putting people in positions where they are going to be able to leverage their strengths and therefore energize them, creating value, retention.
Aly Finkle: (31:40)
That's why at SelectOne we put so much emphasis on finding that right fit, and really creating this exceptional hiring experience. Because we know that when people are in positions that they align with, they're going to crush it. For me that is so much about interacting with others, having conversations, learning, admitting what I don't know, asking questions. This for me just totally motivated, like energized me this morning when I was feeling like I was a little just on an island out here. Thanks for taking the time to chat. I hope you can benefit too.
CJ Maurer: (32:18)
Totally. Similar. I think we're wired similarly from that aspect. Super energizing, a lot of fun. I feel great. Thank you so much for having me on. Hopefully we can do it again some time.