I hope life is treating you well. I couldn’t be more excited these days because my THIRD book is released today. I’ve long asked myself after how many books published would I dare call myself a writer. Of course in theory, you can always call yourself a writer (even with zero book published), because “writer” is like “entrepreneur” or “actor”, it’s an identity you choose for yourself, it’s a mindset and a destination. But I’ve long had this (now mild) impostor syndrome. I thought my saying the word “writer” would make me sound pretentious. Or perhaps I had met too many pretentious writers (honestly, mostly men) and I didn’t want to be like them.
Now I relish saying it. Each of the THREE books I’ve had published was the result of a long, arduous, and painful process which gave me a growing sense of legitimacy. You can only really know how painful it is to publish a book when you’ve gone through that process. I used to think it couldn’t be much different from publishing 20 articles or blog posts online (or something like that). How wrong I was!
It is very different. It is long. There’s so much beyond your control that’s decided by your publisher. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with no instant gratification (whereas a blog post provides instant gratification). On the subject, I really recommend Emilie Bellet’s blog post on the subject: “How did I write a book and get it published?”
This particular book started as a project two years ago when Welcome to the Jungle CEO Jeremy Clédat came to me with the idea of writing a book about innovation in HR and management. Nearly two years later we are the co-authors of 100 idées innovantes pour recruter des talents et les faire grandir, published with Vuibert. There will be an English version of the book (100 innovative ideas to recruit talent and help them grow). I’ll let you know about it as soon as I have news!
In this newsletter, I’d like to tell you more about why I wrote this book with Jeremy👇
Why this book
There’s no hotter subject than the future of work. It seems so much is changing right now in the world of management and human resources. The pandemic is accelerating some of the changes that had started long before the pandemic, notably, the rise of WFH (work from home) and remote management. We’re leaving the industrial paradigm that invented salaried work, 9-to-5 jobs, HR departments, scientific management, unions, social security and we are entering a new digital paradigm. We’ve been going through this transition for a few decades now but the pace of change seems to be picking up.
In this new world of work, many institutions haven’t been invented yet, many things are lacking. How do you invent new worker protections and collective bargaining? How do you manage a team that doesn’t share an office? What does “culture” mean when your team is distributed? What about onboarding? And how do you recruit the creative people you need to get your company ready for the new paradigm? You may know you need a more diverse team to innovate, but how exactly do you make your team more diverse? And what does work life balance mean in a world where you can work all the time, everywhere?
The goal of the book was to put together lots of concrete ideas taken from various countries, industries and companies, as well as a bit of theory, to help managers and HR professionals move their company forward. The idea is not that startups have it all figured out and traditional companies need to learn from them. Indeed, often it’s the other way around! Startups have much to learn from larger, older companies when it comes to human resources. So many companies are facing the same challenges: it’s hard to recruit great engineers (and lots of other talented professionals), it’s critical to help people grow if you want to keep them, you have to develop your employer brand in a world when the boundaries between what’s inside and outside organisations are increasingly blurred…
The book is divided into four parts, each of which has between 20 and 30 short chapters:
The first part deals with employer branding. Transparency and alignment have become key words here. Your employer brand is in the hands of your people. By treating them well, you’ll improve your brand (also your consumer brand!). Talks won’t be enough. You’ll have to walk the talk.
The second deals with recruiting. Recruiting is increasingly hard and critical. As skills become obsolete faster than in the past and new jobs appear every day, it is no longer possible to recruit only “experts” with 5 years experience. You have to be more creative. And to be creative and innovative, you need more diverse teams.
The third is about work environments. Workspaces are increasingly split spaces. A lot of work is done outside them, at home, on the road and in the cloud. Improving your work environment involves thinking about the overall employee experience. Designing the best work environment isn’t just about nice offices (you may even be able to do without), it’s about providing the conditions that enable creativity, deep work and emotional safety.
The fourth part addresses the subject of talent development. Clichés about millennials and their supposed fickleness are popular. You may think there’s no point in developing people any more since they may leave overnight. But you’d be wrong to think that. Developing talent means investing in long-term relationships that are now more relevant than ever.
An extract from the book
This chapter was written long before the pandemic…but it couldn’t be more topical. Managing remotely requires much more empathy…
Have extra empathy to manage your remote teams
There have never been more remote workers. In Europe and the US, more than one in four people work remotely on a regular basis. More and more freelancers and employees want the flexibility to organise their time freely. A small minority of tech companies like Buffer or Automattic have even decided to forego the office altogether and go remote only. Other companies increasingly have to manage a combination of on-site and remote workers.
Remote workers are often said to outperform office workers who cannot concentrate at their desks in open-plan environments that generate many interruptions. Yet many remote workers report more anxiety and stress. Working from home can come at a cost as feelings of isolation and disconnection become common.
The lines between work and home get blurry, which will also make it harder for them to switch off from work. As Jane Scudder, a personal development coach, wrote: “because you’re not present in an office, you may feel pressure to be online every hour, make yourself constantly available or otherwise prove you’re spending your time in a productive way”.
Most importantly remote workers miss out on all the opportunities to get frequent “belonging cues” from their team. As a result they often lack the psychological safety to make team work really successful. As Daniel Coyle wrote in his book The Culture Code: “safety is not mere emotional weather but rather the foundation on which strong culture is built”. And that safety, he explains, comes from all our little social interactions—eye contact, high fives, shared moments of leisure. When working remotely, workers can sometimes become paranoid and believe their team are unhappy with their work even when that’s not the case.
That’s why managers need to show extra empathy with their remote workers and make sure they get enough “belonging cues” and social interactions to feel psychologically safe and produce their best work. The informal conversations that happen at the office are great ways to demonstrate empathy at work. For remote teams, these need to be replaced by something more intentional:
Understand that body language matters a lot: gestures are said to make up more than 50% of our communication so remote communication should incorporate some of it too. Regular video calls should be scheduled even if emails could do the job. In-person meetings should be organised at regular intervals (once a week or once a month, depending on distance and convenience).
Create virtual rituals to replace physical rituals: a random Slack channel to replace the coffee breaks, a weekly remote meeting to share important news, a virtual book club to share reading tips… What matters is for the remote worker to have opportunities to feel connected to their team.
Understand the importance of positive feedback. In real life a lot of things can go without saying. Your satisfaction with an employee’s work can be expressed without words through body language. A knowing smile works wonders. With remote workers things that usually go without saying should be said (or written) so they can be made to feel safe.
Ask your workers if they are alright: workers who are physically present will have numerous opportunities to express their worries and share their problems. Not remote workers. Seize every opportunity to ask them if they need to talk or if they need help.
Make sure they don’t work too much: remote workers are at high risk of burnout. The lines between their private and professional lives are blurred and they often tend to work long hours. Pay extra attention to signs of burnout.
🌳 I’m in Normandy all month this month 😏
Nicolas and I are still having lots of fun developing our media Nouveau départ (in French). We’ve interviewed fantastic people. There’s an interview of Tonjé Bakang about Africa, media and role models (one of my favourite interviews so far), there’s an analysis by Nicolas of the impact of the crisis on the UK (spoiler: it will accelerate the country’s decline), an interview with a geographer about China in the world after Covid-19, and much more. Only our paying subscribers have access to that content. So if you’re interested, subscribe here 🤗
🎁 For Nouveau Départ (all in French, sorry!), we’ve also been experimenting with a new podcast format called “À deux voix” in which Nicolas and I have a conversation about various subjects. In the very first one, we talked about… my book and the transformations of management, paternity leaves, and post-Covid work environments. This series will be for our paying subscribers in the future, but this first episode we are making available to everyone. We’d really like your feedback!
🌍 “Why are Africa's coronavirus successes being overlooked?”, Afua Hirsch, The Guardian, May 2020: “Senegal is in a good position because its Covid-19 response planning began in earnest in January, as soon as the first international alert on the virus went out. The government closed the borders, initiated a comprehensive plan of contact tracing and, because it is a nation of multiple-occupation households, offered a bed for every single coronavirus patient in either a hospital or a community health facility.”
🇪🇺 “Why Social Distancing “Doesn’t Apply” to Germany’s Migrant Farmworkers”, F. Poenaru, C. Rogozanu, Jacobin Magazine, May 2020: “the manner in which Romanian and other Eastern European workers were shipped off, in total disregard for their safety and with the permission of their own governments, highlights the specifics of labor migration in the EU, where a common market and open internal borders allow workers to traverse freely between ostensibly equal member states. Hidden behind this formal equality, however, are the silent compulsions of material necessity that drive hundreds of thousands from the poorer East and South to move West.”
🧳 “The Case for Portable Benefits, and How We Get There”, Kristen Anderson, Medium, May 2020: “The benefits system has been showing its age for years. Fierce debates about independent contractor classification have laid bare the holes in the safety net for “non-traditional” workers. Then, with little warning, tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs because of a global pandemic. But they didn’t just lose their income. They lost access to the only decent financial support this country offers: employer-sponsored benefits.”
That’s all for today. I’ll be back in your mailbox in two weeks! 💌
If this newsletter was transferred to you by a friend or colleague, you can subscribe to Laetitia@Work here: