Jen Fisher is Deloitte’s human sustainability leader. Previously, Fisher served as Deloitte’s first-ever chief well-being officer. She’s also a TEDx speaker, coauthor of the book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, editor-at-large for Thrive Global, and host of the “WorkWell” podcast series.
Adel is a Data Science educator, speaker, and Evangelist at DataCamp where he has released various courses and live training on data analysis, machine learning, and data engineering. He is passionate about spreading data skills and data literacy throughout organizations and the intersection of technology and society. He has an MSc in Data Science and Business Analytics. In his free time, you can find him hanging out with his cat Louis.
Human sustainability really aims to look at how we can remove or create new, remove barriers or create new systems of work that help an organization create value for people as human beings. The historical mindset in many ways has been how do people create value for an organization? And so we need to kind of close this virtual loop and say people create a ton of value as humans for an organization and therefore the organization also creates value for people.
It's not that one day you're not burnt out and the next day you are. Burnout is kind of like this slow roll, you know, and so you kind of feel overwhelmed and then you feel exhausted and then you might feel a little bit better and then you know it's kind of like the frog in the boiling water, right? It doesn't happen quickly, it happens over a period of time.
Understand that constantly pushing through work at all costs is not sustainable. It's important to foster an environment where employees can work efficiently without compromising their wellbeing.
Create a workplace environment where employees feel safe and valued. This includes transparent communication and the ability to have a say in decision-making processes, especially during times of change.
Encourage leaders to prioritize their own wellbeing and be transparent about it. This sets a positive example for the workforce and promotes a healthier workplace culture.
Adel Nehme: Jen Fisher, it's great to have you on the show.
Jen Fisher: It's great to be here. Thank you.
Adel Nehme: Thanks for coming. So you were the first Chief Wellbeing Officer at Deloitte and your official title now is Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte as well. You are the, also the co author of Work Better Together, an excellent book on well being in the workplace and we'll go throughout, we'll discuss it throughout today's episode.
So maybe first setting the stage, you know, walk us through what entails to be a Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and maybe walk us through the journey that led you to where you are today.
Jen Fisher: Yeah, um, that's a loaded, that's a loaded set of questions. So I will, I will do, uh, my best. Um, So, you know, in terms of what led me to the journey that I'm on and where I am today, I have been with Deloitte for many, many years, um, over 20 years, which I don't know if, um, I feel comfortable admitting that I've done something consistently for 20 years, just makes me feel old.
Um, but about nine years ago, I, um, really found myself in, you know, a, a, a complete state of burnout, um, but, you know, at the time, I didn't know that it was burnout because nine years ago, we weren't talking about burnout in the workplace that the way we are now. And, you know, maybe that's good. Maybe that's bad.
You know, I, I think, um, we're talking about it more now because there's certainly more awareness, but I think in ma... See more
I, um, really, you know, I, I kind of, you know, going through the process myself, I, I came back and I really had this passion around wanting to help others not get where I got. And perhaps in the words of Arianna Huffington, you know, burnout isn't the price that we should pay for success. Um, and so I had made the decision that I was actually going to resign from Deloitte and leave the organization.
And so I went and had a conversation with my mentor. Um, and told her that I wanted to resign and my, and she was my leader at the time too. And she was like, Nope, you're not going anywhere. And so I was like, um, okay, so what am I going to do? And so it was really her vision in many ways more than mine, because she was like, I don't You're going to go back to where you came from and you're going to put together a business case for what well being looks like at Deloitte.
And I was like, Oh, okay. And you're, she, we, we continued to have a conversation. And she said, because if you need it, there's a lot of other people that need it too. Um, which I, I say that because a lot of times when people are struggling in the workplace, um, with burnout or their mental health or just other things in general, just struggling with life.
given the world that we're living in these days, we often feel like we're alone and we're the only one. And so it was really important for her, for when she said that to me, I've never forgotten it, right? Like if you need it, somebody else needs it too. And so that's what I did. I spent several months putting together a business case around what the role of a chief well being officer could look like.
And, you know, kind of a more robust, holistic, um, you know, equitable, well being program that is embedded into the culture of an organization looks like. And so I spent eight years doing that. And um, which was incredible. We can talk about all the details of that and what that means. And more recently, I've actually taken on this role of human sustainability leader.
I guess I have a knack for uh, taking on new roles and responsibilities that have kind of yet to be explored and defined within an organization. And so what does human sustainability mean or what is our thinking around it? You know, as we have progressed in the world of workforce well being, I think it's become clear to myself and so many other people that are doing this work that while it's critically important and foundational for organizations to have a great culture and good benefits and programs for their workforce to take advantage of.
It's still not hitting the mark, right? People are still feeling burnt out. People are still kind of having the conversation around, well, wow, like everything about work sucks, right? And that's the conversation that I'm having with CEOs is that led me to kind of this, this idea of, of, you know, furthering human sustainability.
It's certainly I'm not the one that came up with it. But, you know, I was having conversations with C suite executives and they were saying, you know, Jen, we care deeply about our workforce. We're investing in all of these programs, tools, and resources. And our workforce is still saying that everything sucks.
So like, what are we supposed to do? Right. And so human sustainability really starts to get at. what makes work and life sustainable for humans? And what are the systemic problems that exist in the workplace and the ways that we're working that are creating bad outcomes for humans? And it's not just bad well being outcomes, right?
But it could be, you know, lack of skill development or employability, you know, lack of good jobs, lack of opportunities for advancement, no equity or lack of equity. Um, not feeling like I belong or I have a sense of purpose or understand the meaning in my work. And so all of those things that we know that are important to us as human beings that in many and most organizations are being tackled as separate issues.
But the truth is, is that we as humans don't experience those things as separate, as separate things, right? We experience them as a single human and it influences how we feel or don't feel about work. And so human sustainability really aims to look at. how we can remove or create new, remove barriers or create new systems of work that help an organization create value for people as human beings.
The historical mindset in many ways has been how do people create value for an organization and so we need to kind of close this virtual loop and say people create a ton of value as humans for an organization and therefore the organization also creates value for people but it's not this. It can't, it can't continue to be this, you know, one way anymore because that's not working and it's leading to lots of distrust and, um, burnout and inequity issues in the workplace that, you know, many of us are living through and experiencing.
Adel Nehme: Thank you so much for that really
Jen Fisher: That was a lot. I'm sorry.
Adel Nehme: that was a lot. And there's definitely a lot to unpack in what you mentioned, right? Um, I want to first start maybe in trying to identify the patterns that lead to burnout, right? You know, a lot of listeners here, um, whether, you know, data practitioners or data leaders, right, are in the, you know, midst of their careers at the moment.
And, you know, you mentioned your story around, you know, taking a leave of absence, taking care of yourself and recognizing that you had burnout. Um, and being in a. Bit of a period where you didn't know that you're in the middle of a burnout period, right? Maybe, um, as you look at your own experience and then as you look at advising organizations who are trying to identify the patterns that lead to burnout, maybe what does burnout look like?
Jen Fisher: Yeah, it's such a good question. Um, and so the first thing I will say as an individual, it is, It's very hard to recognize burnout in ourselves. Um, you know, you kind of always hear the old adage of like, don't self diagnose, right? When it comes to anything, right? And so because our tendency as human beings, and in particular in high performance cultures or, you know, with people that tend to kind of skew high performance.
We, we live in a culture and have a mindset of like always pushing through, like I'm going to grit it, I'm going to grind it, I'm going to push through, right? And so it's really hard to kind of recognize those things in ourselves, but for me and some of the signs, and there's a lot of them, so it's hard to kind of You know, bucket them, but I would say, um, you know, just complete lack of motivation, not just for the work that you're doing, but for things in your life that you care about and that you know that you care about, you know, people that you enjoy spending time with.
Um, you know, just like a sense of apathy, um, and, and, and no motivation to really kind of engage and not even having the energy in many cases to engage even if you wanted to. Um, you know, for me, it was, you know, my emotions were just all over the place. I was incredibly reactive to things, and so my, you know, if something was going good, I was great.
If something was going bad, I was, you know, laid out on the floor. You know, there was no, there was no in between. My relationship with food changed. My relationship with sleep change. My sleep was very erratic. I was exhausted, but I would go to sleep and I couldn't actually sleep. Um, my relationships with other humans changed, you know, so things like that are good, good signals and signs that something is wrong.
Um, also from a workplace perspective, you know, leaders and, and colleagues can often look for, you know, somebody Not engaging or engaging in way, you know, like, like their patterns of how they engage changing right or the quality or the type of work that they're doing changing or, you know, even signs and signals of like somebody sending emails at 2 a.
m. when they never used to do that. to send emails at 2 a. m. Right? So patterns of behavior, and I don't mean for like a week or two weeks. I mean over a period of time, right? Because look, we're all going to have crappy weeks. We're all going to have crappy days. We're human. We're living in a really tough world.
And so these are patterns over time. I would say at work, it's none of our jobs to diagnose one another, but those are just signs and symptoms. And, you know, something that would, you know, kind of maybe lead you to say, Hey, is everything okay? Um, you know, with, with a colleague or even, even, even with a friend, I think some are, those are some of the signs and symptoms.
What I will say that's really tricky about burnout. It's not that one day you're not burnt out and the next day you are. burnout is kind of like this slow roll, you know, and so you kind of feel overwhelmed, and then you feel exhausted, and then you might feel a little bit better. And then, you know, it's kind of like the frog in the boiling water, right?
It doesn't happen quickly. It happens over a period of time.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, but someone who was talking to me about burnout recently as well explained it very well and that there's, you stop seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Right. Is that even if you were going through a hard time at work before, right, you would still push through, but at least at before, you know, going through that burn up phase, you didn't have, you always had like that light at the end of the tunnel and then you lose that once you're going through a burn up phase.
Jen Fisher: I love that.
Adel Nehme: so as we, you know, we're talking about the patterns that lead to burnout, but I also, you know, given your work as a human sustainability leader and, you know, when you built the case for, um, what well being looks like at Deloitte. Um, I think now more than ever, it's really important to define what well being, uh, looks like, you know, I mean, just in the past 12, six months, 16 months, sorry, we've experienced so much change and stress from an economic downturn, uh, widespread layoffs, especially in the tech industry, the war in Ukraine, currently the war in the Middle East, um, economic and security implications, right?
The rise of AI. And we're going to talk about that and how it challenges organizational culture, individual skill sets. Um, there's been a lot of uncertainty and cause for stress, even outside of work. You can have a high performing job or role that gives you a lot of stress, but then you have these added external factors that provide a lot of that stress.
So, you know, as a first question, I'd love to learn here how you define well being in the workplace. And what do you think are the key components for driving well being at the workplace?
Jen Fisher: Yeah. I mean, I think, yeah, the definition or frameworks for what well being in the workplace or well being in general means. Um, there's many of them, but I think that the key components, really, are components of, you know, your physical, mental, emotional, you know, spiritual health, there's, you know, which can be linked to things like purpose and meaning in the work that you do, purpose and meaning in your life.
We know that that's a big influencer too. your, your, um, health and well being. And so I, I think that there's a lot of consistency when it comes to kind of this definition of well being. I think when it, when it comes to the workplace, what we have, um, you know, when I started eight years ago or nine years ago focusing on well being in the workplace, a lot of what we were doing was helping people.
You know, providing tools and resources and education in many respects around things like, you know, movement during the day, um, nutrition, and not nutrition from the perspective of weight loss and weight gain, but just how nutrition affects people's lives. You know, our physiology and our psychology and how we show up.
Um, we talked a lot about rest and recovery, including sleep, but not just sleep and taking time off. And all of those things are foundational. But I think what we have since learned, and there's probably a lot of people listening that are going, duh, why did it take you so long? Because I, you know, because I'm saying that, but what we have since learned, and perhaps as a result of the, of the pandemic is that we never actually, um, Considered the, the, the impact that work itself has on our well being and certain specifically certain components or certain things about work.
And so what we have since learned through a lot of research here at Deloitte is there are kind of three significant factors, right, is the relationship that I have with my leader and kind of my direct manager, right? And so, is it toxic? Do they trust me? Do I trust them, right? And so, you know, that is the number one driver for either positive or negative well being outcomes in the workplace.
The other one, not surprisingly, is work design, right? What are the, like, how easy or difficult is it for me to actually effectively and efficiently get my work done and be productive? Are there a ton of barriers in the way of me getting my work done? And then third is really linked to kind of autonomy and decision making around how I get my work done, right?
And so, you know, we often say that the people do it like, you know, with leaders, I tell leaders all the time, like, You know, they're like, well, what should I do? And I'm like, well, talk to your people because they're the ones doing the work. So they can probably tell you 10 ways to get the work done better, right?
You know, because they're the ones doing the work. And so how much autonomy do I have to design and quite frankly, redesign how I get work done? Um, and, and, and those decision making rights around how I do the job. Those are the top three things that are. impacting, at least right now, more negative outcomes from a well being perspective in the workplace than they are positive, um, uh, well being outcomes, which I think leads, you know, as I started to get deep into this research, that's what led me to more kind of looking at more sustain, what does sustainable work and human sustainability look like?
And so that you can kind of start to see that trend playing out.
Adel Nehme: And you mentioned in one of your earlier responses was that, you know, a lot of leaders are investing in programs, tools to drive well being, and those things are not necessarily that effective because I think oftentimes we have this misconception that well being is, you know, providing kombucha on tap or like yoga Wednesdays or stuff like that, you know, these types of, you know, well intentioned programs, but don't necessarily address the root cause.
You mind expanding on these types of programs and why they are not necessarily effectual here?
Jen Fisher: To your point, they don't address the root cause, you know, giving me kombucha if my The person that I'm directly working for, um, is causing me lots of anxiety and angst. Well, as far as I know, kombucha doesn't fix that, right? And so it's not that, it's not that the kombucha itself is bad, right? And it's not that the intention behind it is bad, but like we really need to start looking at, okay, what are leader and manager behaviors and what are the skill sets that leaders and managers need, right?
And so if you want to provide your workforce with kombucha and ping pong and all of those great things as an added bonus or perk, that's awesome, but they're not fixing the root cause of what's causing bad well being for the workforce. And so that's the reason. And, and so I think, you know, we're now at a time where You know, those things in the beginning were fun and unique and different, and they were fun and unique and different for about two weeks, and then everybody was like, oh, wait.
Well, nothing's really changed other than I have kombucha, you know? And so. Um, that's when you start to have to dig in and, and, and get real about what are some of the cultural norms within a workplace that are driving bad behaviors, um, but also what are some of the kind of systemic ways of working that might be very dated that we just haven't addressed and don't, um, serve us well in this very modern, you know, technology enabled world that we're living in.
Adel Nehme: and we're going to expand on technology. We're going to talk about quite a bit here, the relationship between well being and technology, but maybe before as well, because I'd like to set the motivation, you know, one thing you mentioned is, you know, high performance cultures and. types, type of people, right?
Don't necessarily think about well being as priority number one, right? You, you want to grind through it. You want to plow through the pain, uh, of, of work in a lot of ways. Um, maybe to clarify here at this point, I'd love if you can outline, you know, the value, the business value of investing and well being and why, you know, this mindset of like plowing through things is not necessarily the most effective all the time.
Jen Fisher: Yeah, I mean, because the, it's, I mean, the number one reason is, is it's not sustainable. Right? It, it, it, plowing through something might be sustainable for, we will be able to get it done for a period of time. Um, but it is not, you know, it is not the way to. um, creating the most value for an organization or the most value for the humans in the organization that are, that are doing the work.
And we've seen that play out time and time again. And I do think that that's why burnout is so prevalent right now. And I mean, the business case goes to, so, you know, first of all, I think, you know, like We talked a little bit about kind of rest and and recovery. I mean, I think we can all individually relate to when we're well Rested and we feel good We there's a noticeable difference in the way that we engage in our work and our work product And so if we are constantly grinding at work and then in our lives in this gets to technology, but we'll go there in a minute.
You know, none of us are well rested. None of us are doing the things that make us feel like our best selves, right? And so, and that does have a significant impact. And then I think you add on other related things, which, you know, we talk about a lot in our book, Work Better Together. Um, you know, and, and I don't, and the pandemic definitely didn't do anything to help this, um, is, you know, our relational capabilities, our, our, our relationships with other humans in our lives and in the workplace, right?
And the impact that that has on us as well. And I think technology has influenced that in a lot of ways. Um, you know. And I think there's positives and negatives on both sides, but you know, the business case is, you know, if you, if you don't have well humans doing the work, you are sub optimizing your bottom line, right?
Because the work that they do is going to be sub optimized and you know, grinding through or pushing through at all costs means that your workforce is going to end up leaving and the cost of replacing You know, your workforce, regardless of what size organization you are or how many people, you know, want to work for you, there's still a significant cost, like direct cost to the organization.
But we need to think beyond that as leaders, right? Like there's a significant human cost. to burning out your workforce time and time again, right? Like, and do any of us as leaders really aspire to be like, to be that right? And the answer is no. But then why are we doing it? You know, there has to be a better way.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, it's like that dichotomy between performance oriented and results, but also being, you know, a caring and kind leader in this, uh, it's, there's a friction to it, uh, that I'd love to kind of unpack here. Um, you know, one thing that you mentioned is relational capabilities, uh, within the team, right? I think this, you mentioned COVID has been horrible for this, right?
I, my team is a distributed team. There's, you know, one person in every continent. Um, we try to create rituals, uh, you know, that bring the team together. But what would be your advice here for these distributed teams nowadays? Because that's increasingly the normal team, right? The normal makeup of the team to build better relationships to feel.
Like you are part of a, you know, well functioning unit.
Jen Fisher: Yeah, I mean, I think there's a handful of things that I, the first thing I will say is that, um, regardless of, you know, where your organization falls on this kind of constant swing that we're experiencing now in office. Not going to the office, somewhere in between, hybrid, um, and many teams like you said distributed all over the country, all over the world.
I, I do, I love that you brought up rituals, right? I mean, I, I think part of work now and in the future and the responsibility and skill sets of leaders and colleagues is we have to create space for relationship building. Like, it can, and it, and it has. I think there is always going to be a need for humans to come together in the workplace in real life.
I, I would never dictate how often or, you know, or where, you know, or anything like that. I think it depends. It doesn't just depend on the organization. I think it depends on the team and the work that the team is doing, right? Like, how relational do they need to be with one another, right? Like, is there, you know, is it a very, you know, we, we kind of dissect the different types of team cultures and, and in our book, right?
And, you know, there are some teams and some people that do very individual work and they don't need to have strong relationships with one another, right? They just need to get their portion of the work done so they can pass it on to the, to the person who gets their portion, but that's becoming less and less.
Um, and so, you know, the benefits of bringing teams together in, in real life, I don't think that that will ever go away. Um, but I do think with distributed teams that it is incredibly important to have rituals and things that you do as a team that allow people to bring their humanity forward. And that can be, I mean, there's so many different great ideas of what that looks like.
I think the important thing is that that needs to be embedded in. The expectations of our work because right now it feels like it's something that Either sits on top of our work or eeks out our work or just feels like another appointment on our calendar that we don't feel like doing because we're back to back to back to back for eight hours a day, right?
And so relationship building needs to be embedded into the way we work. to be a work expectation, and we all need to be given the time and space for it. And I don't think we're there yet in most organizations broadly, right? Um, it is, it's happening, and it's happening because there are good leaders and good people that aspire to have good relationships, but for many of us, myself included, You know, when we try to do these things, there's so many people that are just like, it's an, you know, it's another appointment on my calendar.
I rather have the space for myself, right? And so how do we get to a place where these things are welcomed because we've designed work in a way that, um, allows for us to feel like we, you know, we have the time and place to engage with other humans. And when we engage with other humans, it's not at the cost of doing other work that needs to get done.
Adel Nehme: It's definitely something, you know, uh, I think that's going to evolve over the next few years as, you know, we, we mature our organizational cultures in a remote and distributed setting. Uh, but, you know, we talked about technology, let's dive right in. Uh, you know, I've seen you cover, uh, quite a bit when it comes to, uh, the relationship between well being and technology and, you know, given that DataFrames is a primarily data and AI podcast, A lot of the conversations we have on the pod are around data and AI transformation, right?
And I'd be remiss not to talk about the well being angle of transformation here, you know, the past 12 months have been awe inducing when it comes to technologies like data and AI, but that comes with a lot of stress, right? Data leaders, AI leaders now have massive targets on their back, right? They need to deploy AI technologies as soon as possible.
The wider workforce is now expected to learn about data and AI and they need to adapt to it. right? And frankly, there's a lot of anxiety about long term job security and what it means to be happy at work in an age of AI, right? So with the premise of the question out of the way, maybe first walk us through how you see the relationship between human sustainability and technology in general.
Jen Fisher: Yeah, it's a great question. And so, you know, I think first and foremost, the, the You know, we all need to accept that, you know, that technology and A. I. is here to stay right. It's not going anywhere. Um, and so we do need to find a better, more sustainable path for humans and technology to work better together.
Um, I think, you know, where we are and kind of where we've been. I remember, you know, when we were first, first integrating technology into the workplace. You know, it was this, you know, promise of, um, you know, oh, we're going to have technology. It's going to make us so much more efficient, which means we're going to have all of this, you know, free time that we can.
Pursue other meaningful work or time outside of work that we can do the things that matter to us in our lives. I think most of us have probably experienced the opposite of that, right? So, you know, yes, it's made us more efficient, but that efficiency meant that we all got more work to do, right? We weren't just given the free time, right?
And I think that there's the same risk of that with AI and the conversation that's happening, right? Like if we do it Properly, I believe that that we can realize that promise that these these tools will allow our humanity to come through and that we will be able to spend more time developing meaningful deep relationships with which then allow us as humans to be more creative and to be more innovative and to do the things that.
You know, depending on who you talk to, um, you know, the technology can't do yet. Maybe it will be able to, but those are uniquely human, right? And the need for humans in the workplace, I think, will always need to be there. But I do think that, you know, we need to create the right expectations and boundaries around our technology Especially in the workplace, but also in our life because we have adapted and adopt, we have adopted technology into our lives, every aspect of our lives, anything that we've got any faster than anything we've done in human history.
I mean, they're I'm still blown away that there's, like, refrigerators that are connected to the internet because I don't really know why they're connected to the internet, and I don't want my refrigerator yelling at me, telling me that I'm out of milk.
Adel Nehme: Yeah.
Jen Fisher: You know, but maybe someone does, right? But, like, technology has embedded itself into everything in our life, and We haven't really stepped back to make the decisions about how we want that to work, right?
Like, we've just said, Oh, this is cool. I now have a refrigerator that's connected to the internet. But why? Like, what purpose does it serve and how does it make me and my life better? I do think that technology does, can, and will continue to make so many aspects of our lives better. But we as humans need to make those decisions.
And we haven't, the boundaries are so blurred. Um, you know, we're connected to that technology at work. We quote unquote, leave work and we're connected to technology in our personal life. And there's some great benefits to that. We write about it in our book, you know, during the pandemic, technology was the only thing keeping us connected to so many people and to work.
And that was really, really important. But then you got kind of three, four months into the pandemic and everybody was exhausted because they were on their technology all the time, right? And so I think the relationship is that we as humans need to really step back and say, okay, we have a fantastic opportunity in front of us, but we need to create.
The guardrails and the boundaries and the policies around the expectation and the use of technology and AI in our workplaces.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, that's really fantastic. And I want to, can I expand on that? What do you think are, you know, these policies as generative AI evolves and becomes more embedded in the workplace? You know, what do you think is a healthy and sustainable culture that leverages generative AI and what is, you know, the anti pattern here?
Jen Fisher: You know, I think if I knew the answer to that, um, I mean, I can give you, I can give you some thoughts. I mean, I, I think that if I, I, I don't think there's a lot of clarity right now around Um, how humans and generative AI are going to coexist. Um, and, um, I think that that's creating a lot of fear because what we hear is that generative AI is going to take our jobs.
Um, and so I think that, you know, we need to be thoughtful about what is, what is coexisting look like and what are. Um, you know, what are the things that, and probably more importantly, how we're telling the story, right, because humans relate to story, um, right, and so what are the positives of generative AI in the workplace, of which there are many, but seem to be, and we have the research and the data, but they kind of seem to be glossed over in the story that we're telling to people, right?
And so how is it going to enhance? You as we need to get down to the level of like, how is it going to impact me and enhance the work that I do or make my work better? And and we're not, we're not doing a very good job of telling that story. And so I do think that You know, the, the way that we're telling the story needs to change.
Um, but I also, and I also need, I also think that we need to rethink, you know, like, get very clear, I guess, as to what What is the role of AI? What are, what are the tasks, um, that, that, that is going to be handled by technology and generative AI and AI? And what are, and what's the role of the human? And I don't know if anybody has really figured that out.
And then, Also, you mentioned it very early on, is like, how are we going to re skill, up skill, lead, um, the workforce differently as a result? Um, and so I feel like right now we're very reactive, um, as opposed to kind of proactively saying, okay, these are, you know, the 19 skills that for right now we're going to, you know, kind of figure out.
What generate how generative AI can help and engage and enhance the workplace and the work that we do and as a result of that What does that mean for the people doing the work right and get very clear on just a certain set of skills Right now at least in my view the way that it's coming across is, you know, a little bit doomsday.
Um, and I think there's a, there's a very different story that can and should be told.
Adel Nehme: There's a couple of themes that you're touching upon here, upskilling, reskilling, but also the story, right? And I think, uh, you know, this segues perfectly to my next question on how leaders can drive psychological well being and tell a positive story throughout these massive transformation programs. You know, a big part of what we do at Datacamp is helping, you know, both individuals, but also organizations upskill.
their workforce on data and AI. And I think, you know, similar to our conversation here, like, wide scale transformation and well being are deeply connected. If you are being told that you need to pick up these skills, you also need, you know, a what's in it for me, a vision for the future, that light at the end of the tunnel that we spoke about at the beginning.
So, I'd love to learn how can leaders better instill psychological safety within their workforce in a time of rapid change, in a time of transformation.
Jen Fisher: So I think first and foremost, recognizing that, um, humans, even it, it's kind of funny to think about it because even though humans are always evolving and changing, we're not very good. We're also not very good at it. But we're not very good at it when we're told that we have to make this change or we're told that this is the way that it's going to be.
This goes back to the conversation that we're having about, um, the workforce feeling like they have some say and autonomy in the way that they are doing and the way that their jobs are designed. And so I think. Number one, you know, creating psychological safety. I think transparency is incredibly important.
Um, clear is kind. Brene Brown said it in a different context. But I think that it rings true in this context too. When people are clear as to what the objectives and goals are and what it means for them. It is much easier for them to adopt and adapt to change. And if they feel like they have a voice and they are being heard, then it's much easier to adapt to change.
I think where some leaders, at least leaders that I've had some conversations, struggle is, you know, well, if I ask my workforce, You know, what do they want, or what do they need, and I'm not able to do it, then isn't that worse than not asking them? And the answer is no. Because the simple art of asking somebody, what do you think, or what do you need, or how would you do this, means that you care about what they think.
It doesn't mean you have to go do what they think. But you do need to close that loop and say, I know that you all said this, but we can't do it, and here are the reasons why. But they will, but your workforce will still feel heard, and that's what psychological safety is. It doesn't mean that everybody is going to like the outcome, like the answer, or feel comfortable.
It means that they feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their opinion, their voice, their needs. It doesn't mean that you have to, in all cases, adapt to their needs. And so I think that those are, I mean, it's, we go back to human connection, right? It's like having real conversations about what's going on, being truthful, being transparent.
As a leader, talk about what you're worried about, you know? I mean, I think that that's one way, like vulnerability is a, like, really important way to create psychological safety. And I realize that's uncomfortable for some people, so do it. At a pace and at a, you know, that that's comfortable for you. But vulnerability is really, really important when it comes to creating psychological safety.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, that's so important what you're talking about. And here we're talking about leaders being vulnerable. And I would like to touch upon here, you know, the role, like the importance of Well, being four leaders, right? Because, you know, I think a lot of leaders are forgotten in the well being conversation because they're supposed to take the brunt of the weight, right?
They listen to their team about their particular well being, right? They're expected to take on that weight. And, you know, if you're advising, you know, a data leader or any leader at the moment, right? Who's listening in, where should they start when thinking about their own personal well being?
Jen Fisher: Yeah. I'm so glad that you brought that up because I, I agree, you know, leaders, leaders often get a bad rap and they are expected to, you know, um, You know, kind of show up and, and, and not show any weaknesses or, or vulnerabilities. And that's absolutely untrue. Like that is just such an old school way of thinking that because leaders are human too.
And so it, at Deloitte, we've done a lot of research on this topic because, you know, we were doing some surveying and we started to see in the surveys that there's been this ongoing. Significant disconnect between what how leaders think that their workforce is doing in terms of their well being and how the workforce is actually doing.
And so we were like, how? I mean, You know, maybe people are like, well, yeah, of course, you know, because like leaders are disconnected and they have no idea and whatever, you know, and so that kind of the finger pointing, right? And so we were like, okay, but there has to be more to that. And the truth is what we found out is that a lot of leaders right now are themselves struggling, right?
And so if you are a human being and you're struggling, There's no way you're going to be able to accurately know or understand how others are doing because your perspective is out of whack, right? Like if I'm struggling, I can't say to you like, Oh, you must be doing great. And you're like, well, I'm not doing that good.
And I'm like, well, you're doing better than I am. So maybe you're doing great.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, it's hard to have the resources to empathize with others when you yourself are out of resources.
Jen Fisher: Yeah, so I mean, I think we're leaders. The most important thing that you can do is take care of yourself and your well being. And in doing that, I do think that you have to be transparent and vulnerable about it. You do have, you can't do that in the shadows. It has to be something that leaders are openly talking about and role modeling for their people because that then gives the permission To their workforce to do the same because what we also see a lot of is leaders saying, Hey, I might send you an email at one o'clock in the morning or over the weekend.
I don't expect you to reply and they might genuinely not expect you to reply, but the real signal that they're sending to the workforce is if you ever want to be a leader in this organization or be like me, this is what you need to do. Right. And so leaders really need to walk the talk when it comes to.
Taking care of themselves, their own actions and behaviors, because regardless of what you say, your behaviors are what's being watched and what's being internalized by the workforce.
Adel Nehme: Yeah. And you know, maybe diving a bit deeper here, because I think, you know, leaders are so used to being in a high performance mode, right? Not taking like that, taking care of themselves feels like a step back in a lot of ways. Like, what would be your advice for like people who have resistance, especially leaders who have resistance to taking care themselves, taking care of themselves, and who are, you know, looking to.
to have better well being themselves, but feel that hesitation that it's going to come at a cost of performance.
Jen Fisher: So I would, um, I mean, there's so much research that shows the opposite of that, but what I would say is start small, you know, make one small commitment of something that you know that you can do, right? So this is going to sound silly, but can you practice? You know, gratitude while you're brushing your teeth, right?
I hope, I hope that most people brush their teeth at least once a day, hopefully twice.
Adel Nehme: Yeah.
Jen Fisher: You know, but can you add a small thing on to something that's already habitualized in your life. And so it's not like, Hey, I'm going to start training for a marathon, but I haven't even run a block. Right. But it's like, how do I add something small on and give it some time? Right. It's not like, Oh, I've been doing this for four days and I haven't noticed a difference.
You're not going to notice a difference in four days, but you will notice a difference in three months. Right. And so we talk about those like, what is one small thing that you can start doing for yourself? Where you, where over time you start to notice a change and then you can add on something else and then you can add on something else.
And so I think where well being fails for a lot of people that are high performers and that are really busy is that because they're high performers, they feel like they have to pick one really big thing and do it really, really well because that's the mindset of a high performer. And if they can't, And if they can't do it really well, then why do it at all, right?
And so, and so I, I think we need to challenge ourselves to say when it, actually, when it comes to wellbeing, actually, some of the smaller things are the most, most powerful and most meaningful things. And so that's what I would say.
Adel Nehme: Yeah. That's, that's really spot on. Uh, you know, Jen, as we wrap up our conversation, I saw that you recently gave a TED talk on sustainability and human stability in the workplace. I thought it was brilliant. Uh, we're definitely going to link in the show notes. Uh, but given that, how do you see the conversation around human sustainability evolving in the workplace, what systemic changes need to happen, uh, that you would like to see in our approach to work?
Jen Fisher: Yeah, it's a great question. And I think it's still one that honestly, we're trying, you know, trying to figure out. And, and by the way, thank you for your kind comments regarding my TED talk. Um, but look, I think the conversation around human sustainability is, is, is evolving. I think that it is one that, um, is also providing hope, right?
We've tried a lot of things to change the workplace and to change the way that we've been working for, you know, the last hundred years. And we really haven't made much progress. You know, technology, yes, that's, that's, that's a huge differentiator. It hasn't really changed the way that we work, right? And so I think that's what we mean when we kind of talk about systemic changes, right?
Like, The way we work, how we work, where we work, the structure of work, what is actually, you know, need, like, do we need to actually be in an office to get our work done? Sometimes the answer, I think, is yes. Sometimes the answer is no, right? But really kind of challenging. Those long held systemic beliefs about what work is and the role that it plays in our life or the role that it should play in our life or the even the fact, you know, we talked about distributed teams and I know for a lot of people using the word asynchronous is a bad word because of, you know, so many kids that were doing asynchronous learning during the pandemic and how torturous that was on parents, but yeah, Like, you know, do, you know, like, is asynchronous work the way of the future, right?
Can people choose to really work when, where, and how they want to so that they can pursue and live a meaningful life outside of work? And what are the systems that we need to put in place that are fair and equitable that value the human in order to make that happen? Um, and I don't think we know all the answers to that yet.
But I think we're, we're, I think we're We're starting down that path. And so I see it as hopeful. I see it as a lot of there's a lot of opportunity. I do see AI and generative AI playing a huge role in how we actually accomplish that
Adel Nehme: Yeah, it's definitely going to be an exciting space in the next few years. And uh, yeah, I also share your hopeful vision here. And now, Jen, as we wrap up our episode today, do you have any final call to action or, you know, notes to share with the audience today?
Jen Fisher: final call to action. Gosh, we've said so much. I mean, I go back to I, you know, as cliche as it, as it may sound, I, I, we, we all need to, you know, be taking care of ourselves. Right. And, and I think we need to get rid of kind of this legacy or old mindset that taking care of yourself is somehow selfish. Um, but we're living in this.
It's really difficult and disruptive time, um, and in order to take care of others and to make these big transformational changes that are really needed in our world and in our workplaces, um, we have, we have to be taking care of ourselves or it's not attainable. It's not accomplished and we won't be able to accomplish it.
Adel Nehme: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Thank you so much, Jen, for coming on DataFramed.
Jen Fisher: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's a great conversation.
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