Recognizing Cultural Differences in the Workplace

Maurice Bell, Head of People Operations, Lattice

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Maurice is a passionate people-first leader who firmly believes the human potential is limitless given the right conditions. Currently serving as the Head of People Operations for a leading people success platform, Lattice, Maurice built his professional life around developing and driving people strategies so organizations can truly tap in to the highest levels of employee engagement, retention, and performance. Prior to joining Lattice, Maurice led numerous HR and people teams behind well-known companies such as Facebook, Union Bank, and Electronic Arts. 

  • Maurice's journey to the world of HR and passion for people empowerment
  • History and influence of Samoan culture
  • How people of color can struggle with self-advocacy
  • How Maurice began to shift positions to grow into a people function
  • How to leverage data to bring about organizational change
  • How engagement levels can drastically vary when comparing at the company and team level
  • How engagement, compensation, and benefits are changing
  • Intro to Lattice
  • The importance of operations in HR
  • Remote work landscape
  • Culture is happening while you're trying to plan for it 

[Tom Finn]    00:00:02    Hello, and welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast, where we lift up people leaders so they can lift up their organizations. I'm your host, Tom Finn, co-founder and CEO of LeggUP. Together, we'll learn how to drive people innovation, how to transform HR into people ops, and how to secure buy-in to disrupt the status quo. And as I like to say, it's finally time to stop smoking on airplanes and update your people strategy. Let's transform your organization and move from a culture of talent management to talent empowerment. 

This week's episode of the Talent Empowerment podcast is brought to you by LeggUP’s Talent Insurance, an inclusive people development platform designed to help HR leaders empower their people through one-on-one professional coaching with results like a 66% improvement in avoiding burnout, a 54% jump in leadership skills and a 73% increase in job satisfaction, leg up guarantees, improved employee wellbeing, productivity, and retention. In fact, they ensure it, your people stay or they pay! Visit LeggUP, that's L E G G, to learn more.

And without further ado, this is Talent Empowerment.

Welcome to the Talent Empowerment podcast, where we lift up people leaders. So you can lift up your organizations. I am your host, Tom Finn. And today we have a people leader who is a UCLA brew and alum, a former rugby player, and was part of the gospel choir. His name is Maurice Bell. Maurice, welcome to the show.

[Maurice Bell]   00:01:37    Tom, thank you for having me; really excited to be here.  

[Tom Finn]    00:01:40    We are excited to have you, and if you don't know, Maurice, let me introduce you to him. He is a passionate people-first leader, who firmly believes that human potential is limitless given the right conditions. He's currently serving as the head of people, operations for a leading people, success platform. Lattice if you haven't checked them out, I would highly recommend them. And Maurice has built his professional life around developing and driving people's strategies. So organizations can truly tap into the highest levels of employee engagement, retention, and performance. Now, prior to joining lattice, Maurice led numerous HR and people teams behind well-known companies, such as Facebook union bank and electronic arts. We are so happy to have you, how did you find yourself in the world of people and HR?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:02:28    Great, great kickoff question. Uh, because I think I'd like to think that, um, I found myself in HR because it's where I was meant to be. Uh, although if you would've asked me along that journey, uh, I, would've probably told you, I don't know where I'm going with this. Um, I say that because, uh, you know, hindsight's 2020, um, I've always been passionate about, um, people empowerment, right? And I think it's, uh, and, and bringing the best out of people. Um, and, uh, that's really steeped into me from a cultural standpoint in terms of like my Simonian heritage and, um, and supporting the village, um, you know, as well as just coming through and engaging in environments and experiences in my life where they were, there's always consistent need and feel compelled to show up for that need and, and support people. So, you know, can I say that I was like, HR was going to be my career lifelong career goal?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:03:28    Of course not. I think that's probably not the case for most people. Um, did I, I actually didn't even know HR was a thing until, uh, my first like real job outta college, uh, where I was, uh, an inspector for PG and E, uh, which is the local, um, utility up here. Um, and you know, life started at that time. I was thinking about going to law school and, uh, then had a baby on the way and started thinking, okay, well maybe law school's not in the cards for me. What other opportunities might be here at this company? Mind you PG&E's a hundred-plus-year-old company and at the time was about 20,000 employees, big, you know, um, solidified organization. Um, and you would imagine two probably pretty solidified HR departments as well. Um, and so, yeah, you know, one day I kind of said, what's, what's going on over here.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:04:24    All right, let's see what this company's got, what other opportunities are there and, uh, happened to fire up my email, which wasn't, uh, given I was an inspector and out and about not something that I, I did daily, but popped in the email. And I happened to see an email, uh, that was about volunteering as a part of a task team to address, uh, some of the data results from an employee engagement survey. Um, never heard of employee engagement, quite frankly, never really had heard of HR, but I didn't really know what it was. Um, but the same sounded cool. It was about improving communication. And I said, oh, well, that sounds fun and interesting. Uh, let me jump in. And that was really the start of my journey is, uh, participated in that task team, uh, kind of moved and mobilized into like a leadership role for that work and driving the action plan for that organization, which became a rotation opportunity for me, um, to than a formal position as an employee engagement specialist to change management lead, uh, to kind of towards the end of that, that career.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:05:34    Um, at PG E I was leading the employee engagement survey itself, uh, for the company. Um, so that was kind of my, my first leg into the world of HR and people. Um, but I think I was drawn to that work from a lot of the things that I've done before, around, like I mentioned, community development, you know, I ran a nonprofit in college supporting, uh, at risk youth in the broader LA area, um, with kind of peer counseling and tutoring. And so just this work of like building people up and, and trying to maximize, uh, their potential is, has always been a thing for me.  

[Tom Finn]    00:06:13    Yeah. That's, that's awesome. And let's go back in time before we sort of go through the career work, let's go back in time and talk about sort of the Simone culture and the way you were raised and, and, and talk about the community and that culture a little bit to help educate us.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:06:28    Yeah. So, uh, Samala is, uh, a couple islands, technically I think three or four islands, uh, out in the middle of the Pacific closer to like New Zealand in Australia. Uh, so I'm a Pacific Islander. My mom was born and raised in Samoa, moved, moved to San Francisco with, uh, her eight other brothers and sisters, uh, when, uh, she was 13. Uh, so that's one thing you should know about Simone's big families, uh, and family is really important. Um, and, uh, yeah, she kind of, that was, she was, she was the person for me and my family that really, she was the second oldest, but she, uh, laid the foundation, uh, for my, my family, my broader family here taking care of her brothers and sisters, um, in San Francisco. Um, and so, uh, grew up with a lot of families, uh, understood the principles and it's really steeped in Samoan culture.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:07:24    We've got, um, we got a, uh, kind of a, a cultural tenant that's called FA Mo, um, which is like basically translates as the Samoan way. Uh, and, uh, there's a lot to unpack in that philosophy, but one of the most important pieces is, uh, your representation of your, your family, which is literally within your, your name. Um, and you are an embodiment of how your, your family is understood who they are, what they represent. Um, and there's a lot of pride, respect, and honor that is associated with how you show up and what you do in your, in your, in your spaces, in the world as a reflection of, of your family. Um, and so that's big to be, family's huge. Um, taking care of each other is huge. Um, making sure that, you know, we, we're all winning together and, and, and growing and succeeding together is a big part of what moves me.  

[Tom Finn]    00:08:25    Yeah, that's, that's wonderful. And, and small and culture is so rich and steeped in history and family, as you mentioned. Um, and, and it's interesting because there are so many ties that organizations are trying to pull off, right? They're trying to have people come from a pre, a place of love and respect and duty to the company, and focus on the core values of an organization as well. And I would imagine that taking, gosh, some of this sort of work that's been done by, by your mom and by your entire family, you've gotta bring that to work every day, don't you?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:08:59    Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think so. And as I've gotten, um, further in my career and more grounded in my identity as a professional, uh, I think I've, I've gotten to a place to where I'm embracing that a little bit more. Um, you know, I think the reality of it is particularly, I think, you know, people of color, uh, tend to find themselves in their career journey where they are trying to navigate, uh, an environment and an expectation that might be different than their, their kind of natural lived experience within the spaces that they, they live in the community, they work right. Code-switching is a thing, right? And, uh, putting pressure on how you think you're supposed to show up in certain environments, um, how you need to talk, how you need to dress, um, what values that you need to, um, present. Um, it's, it's always been a thing for me to navigate and, and I bring that up specifically because I think one of the things that's a challenge, uh, with particularly me, I can speak from my experience as I'm half black, half Samoan.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:10:06    I know on the Samoan side, uh, you're growing up, especially as a kid, there's deep reverence, uh, for elders. And, um, and in the FA Samoa, that respect is presented in a way where you, you not really supposed to be, you shouldn't have an outsized presence in, in the, in the village, in, in the community, but you're supposed to know your place. You kind of sit on the sidelines, you observe, you learn, you help and support. Um, but humbleness is a big part of that experience. And you start with humbling yourselves, uh, to your elders, um, to your parents. Now I bring that up because I think in the work environment, especially in like American culture, um, that can be tricky because so much of it is merit-based. And so much of it is about making sure that your contributions and your efforts and your impact are seen and owned, right?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:11:08    And you have to be really comfortable with, um, uh, self-advocacy and, um, and, uh, building a self-reputation. And that just is not, that's a little bit of a foreign approach at least within the Simonian culture. Right. You're not supposed to do that. It's all about the family, right? Yeah. And so a lot of times when I was growing in my career, you know, I, I would shy away from the attention and the recognition and I'd put the recognition on my team or put the recognition on my department or the people that I worked with. Um, you know, and the reality of it is in some ways, you know if the culture was right for that organization, that served me well, because they, the recognition was still there. But if it wasn't the right culture, then I missed that opportunity to be seen.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:11:56    Um, but as I've grown into my career, uh, like what I do appreciate is now that I'm in a leadership capacity, all those values do, I mean, you are literally in a position now to take care of, of your community, right. And represent your community, uh, think about the best interests of the organization over your own. Um, you know, be a servant leader in, in ways that are gonna help mobilize the organization and, and create that engagement. And so it serves me well now, but the journey to get here, um, you know, it, it had its own challenges.  

[Tom Finn]    00:12:28    Yeah, of course. And we all have our own challenges from our upbringing that we bring to work, that we have to work through. And, you're right to point out that not every company is the same and the cultural norms within a company sometimes dictate our behavior to some varying degree or level. And so it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude on your part. Um, and, and on all of us to come to work and kind of work through this. And it takes a course of years. It doesn't, it doesn't happen overnight. Right. I mean, we want it to we're in our twenties or our early thirties, and we're thinking I'm almost there, I'm almost comfortable in my own skin. Right. And then all of a sudden you wake up and you go, actually, I'm doing okay. Yeah,  

[Maurice Bell]   00:13:08    Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and a lot of that I think is just paying a, like being present in your journey, right? Like I think there's an old school approach of, Hey if I just show up to work every day if I do what I'm supposed to do, that, you know, I'm gonna make it, I'm, I'm gonna grow. And, and these things are just going to happen. Um, and that discipline and commitment and consistency is important, but you also have to just be present and you have to be paying attention to what's happening around you. What, what, what seems to be mobilizing your career and what's not, and just be conscious about how you're engaged. Don't just assume that, um, the, the blueprint is already made, like you have to design your, your career and your growth and be, uh, an active participant in it.  

[Tom Finn]    00:14:00    Yeah. It's, it's a great point. And let's talk a little bit about your career and your growth. Um, so we know that you were working for, uh, PG&E uh, we know that you got kind of through the, through the door of HR, through employee engagement and that, that was your entrance and your entree into this new world of people, which really, I mean, quite frankly, it fits your personality and the way you carry yourself and your family structure and your belief system. And that is the most beautiful way to align a career is that you align it with, with who you are, you know, deep in your soul. Um, but help us understand this. You've made some moves, some pretty strategic moves along the way. So walk us through the moves. And, did you do it on purpose, or was this accidental?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:14:45    Um, yeah, actually believe it or not. I mean, obviously, there's, some of it was opportunities presenting and, and taking advantage of that opportunity, but it was very much intentional. Like, I, it was clear, especially again, all of this, not having a framework of, of a like organizational understanding of the role of HR right. Coming in. Uh, and so my lens was employee engagement, but as I progressed my career in employee engagement, I started seeing these other departments like, oh, what is an HR business partner? What, what do they do, right? Oh, um, ER, what is that? Oh, you know, compensation, people, analytics. And I started seeing that there was a broader network and system of responsibilities and functions. Um, and what I felt like was really cool for me was someone who's kind of entering this space and learning the employee engagement gave me visibility.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:15:43    It was one of those functions that cut across everything. Right. Cause at the end of the day, I'm, I am the data owner of how people feel about our systems and processes, how people feel about our policies, how people feel about their pay, and how people feel about their leadership and their management. Right. Um, and, and getting into a position where, you know, this is a while ago where I don't think we were as, um, data native in like the people work and the HR work as we are today. Um, I recognize like, whoa, I actually have unique insights and can be a consultant across all these spaces. And so I leveraged that right. Um, to learn more about how they operate. And I was, I was sought after as, uh, as a consultant in that space. And so getting that visibility helped me understand how I needed to grow my career.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:16:33    Um, because I also knew in kind of some of the things that we talked about the background and just wanting to have impact being the data owner was helpful and being the consultant was helpful. But then I started, as I grew, started having opinions about, well, Hey, this is, I think this is a policy's missing. We should create this policy or, Hey, we need to improve this process. Or, um, we need to build this function. Um, but I wasn't in a, I wasn't in a capacity to do that. And so I, I knew that at some point I wanted to lead a people function, uh, and I needed to kind of build the skillset and the understanding to do that. And so that's really what drove my career. Um, I also, there were just cultural components too. Uh, PG E was a wonderful organization. I really actually appreciate that's where I started my career because it grounded me in, uh, like a deep understanding of like system process, structure, rigor, risk management, right?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:17:29    Those types of things, that's the kind of organization it, it was. Um, but this, my spirit was creative spaces, uh, you know, qualitative spaces where people are able to work and lean into, um, into like their full selves. And so, uh, you know, from there, I went to electronic arch, which is a gaming company, uh, and what was important for me for that move was I was going from like a principal employee engagement person, which was very specific to engagement survey data and analytics to this conversation at that time, which was relatively new of people experience. Right. So it was like a broader perspective. And, for me was more action-oriented, right? It was like the next evolution of employee engagement to how engagement data reflect in the programs and activities that we're doing and the experience we're creating. Um, and it was a gaming company and I was a gamer. I grew up a gamer. Sure.  

[Tom Finn]    00:18:29    You know? Yeah. You gotta, you gotta that right.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:18:32    Mario three was my jam. Yeah. Like, so I thought that was awesome. Right. And I started really being in the engagement work, you get associated with culture, you have a lens into the culture. And so I was fascinated to see, okay, I'm going from, you know, PG E, which is a utility, you know, highly operationalized. It needs and requires a command and control environment because, you know, people can literally die doing their job if it, if we're not, um, managing that effectively to this fully creative space. Right. And I was just fascinated. I wanted to see how culture impacted the employee experience and the work that the people team does. And so, uh, that was fascinating to me being able to manage the employee engagement data, but then also building out programs around rewards and recognition doing, uh, culture audit, organizational effectiveness, team effectiveness, uh, really started grounding me into and moving me into spaces where I was able to leverage the engagement data, but then build practices, functions, processes that, that were able to affect change around that data.  

[Tom Finn]    00:19:43    Can you gimme an example, Maurice, about, um, something that you've done in your career that, uh, that really leveraged data to, to help support some level of change within the organization cuz something concrete would be really helpful to help others?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:19:57    Yeah. So, um, so when I joined electronic arts, um, we had our engagement survey. I think that was, there was the team health survey. Um, and one of the things we noticed, especially at the organization at that time was about 12 to 12 to 15,000 employees, right? So there was an actually, no, I'm sorry. It was like eight to 12,000 employees over the time there, obviously, we grew. Um, but I think as you start to look deeper into data, you start recognizing, especially as an organization gets bigger, are these constructs, these ideas that we're trying to measure against, um, they take their di their dynamic and it depends on how you cut the data to understand really how you move the needle on it. Right. You can't just assume that the aggregate top-line data point, uh, is where you're gonna get the most meaningful action.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:20:54    But once you start filtering, once you start looking at correlations on data, you start to really see, oh, this is actually more of a thing specific to this area. Anyway, I say that to say, uh, one of the things that we did in my time there was starting to do a, um, a deeper kind of correlative analysis on where we're seeing differentiation in data points. And one of the things that we saw was engagement as like a top line dimension outcome kind of metric that we were trying to navigate looked different when people were associating, how they felt engaged with the company, electronic arts versus their local team, or, you know, in the gaming world, you have studios right where, uh, the studio is kind of creating the game itself. Right? And you think about that kind of creative talent. There are so many cultural components to the identity that someone has with their studio or their team or their pod.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:21:53    Um, and so one of the things we started doing was actually breaking that out and saying, Hey, this is how people are actually feeling and thinking about how they're engaged with the company, uh, electronic cards at large and that brand and that value proposition versus this is how they're thinking about their, their engagement with the team. And once we did that and started doing the correlative analysis against those things separately, we were able to recognize that the types of actions to make improvements were very, very different, right? At the company level things, are more around systems, and processes, right? Policy, uh, you know, leadership, communication, you know, things that were more, um, you could affect more change around from a leadership level, from the team or department studio. It was more around, um, recognition and rewards and like, um, team dynamics, right? And processes and practices within the team.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:22:54    And so that was one of the things that was like an aha moment for me, but also where I started to be able to really lean in and, and, and provide deeper guidance is you gotta, you gotta understand the point of view and perspective. And it shifts a lot of times companies will just measure, like, I'm happy to work at this company for X amount of years. Right. But if you switch that question and say, I'm happy to work on this team, right? You're gonna get an actually fundamentally different question, uh, a result. And so, um, that was some of that work.  

[Tom Finn]    00:23:24    Yeah. That's, that's beautifully said and it wouldn't just happen at electronic arts. I mean, we can take this model and we can utilize it in any corporation, uh, in US or, or globally, because really what you're saying is when you look at the data, you've gotta get under the hood a little bit. Don't just stop at the first pass of here's. Here's what the engagement survey says. Or here's where the data says we should move the needle. You gotta get into the teams, the regions, the local feel of how an organization feels at the local level, cuz that's where we all go to work. And those are the people we play with every day, right? In the sandbox.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:23:57    And, and, and again, the connection is, I think there was a lot of time where engagement was about this felt like this specific data point that then we had to react to where I think the idea of employee experience is actually no, start from the employee's perspective, right? What are they experiencing in their day-to-day life and organizations should think, start from the employee experience to say, Hey, what are, who owns what type of spaces where we needed to make improvement, right? What are the things that the senior leadership team owns? What are the things that a manager owns because they're shaping that experience? Right. And making sure that you're designing your survey in a way to get the right data to the right person who can take the right action.  

[Tom Finn]    00:24:41    Yeah. Well, well said, uh, I was, uh, on a call the other week, um, with a leader in talent who has 60 international locations and 40 in the US. And they said to me, look, we've got a major shift happening in the world. We've got folks in Minnesota that never had opportunities outside of Minnesota before. And we were able to keep our people in Minnesota and pay them Minnesota wages. And now we've got companies from San Francisco and LA and New York and Mexico City and London calling on my folks in Minnesota and their engagement is lacking. The whole thing has changed because now you can give a London, uh, salary or a California salary to somebody in Minnesota. And they're gonna say, my goodness gracious, that's, that's a big lift for me. Um, and uh, the whole world of engagement comp benefits, it's all changed in the last couple of years. And we've gotta keep a keen eye on the data, which was your point. And then really getting under the hood on the data that to really maintain and retain our greatest assets, which are people.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:25:49    And the reality is it has changed and it is continuing to change if not accelerating, given all the things that are happening now with remote work.  

[Tom Finn]    00:25:57    Yeah. Agreed. So let's touch on that. So you're, you're at Lattice. Um, tell us a little bit about, um, that organization and then I wanna hear from you what you're doing in terms of remote work and, and how you're managing that, but let's start with Lattice


[Maurice Bell]   00:26:10    Yeah. So, so been with lats actually, uh, today is my one year anniversary. Uh, so I joined, uh, June 28th, 2021. Uh, and it has been an amazing journey, uh, over this first year. Um, you know, I, I came in the reasons why, again, this idea of like intentionality around my career prior to Lattice, I was actually, I, I, I reached what I thought to be kind of my career milestone was running head of a people full, full scope people team, um, at, off the grid. Uh, and, um, fascinating. I was brought into off the grid because they said, Hey, we want a culture person. So we want someone who's a leader in designing and creating amazing cultures. And, uh, I had a good experience around that work and was excited about that opportunity. Uh, once I joined and I was actually at the helm, so to speak of a people team for an organization at that time was about a hundred and fifty, a hundred seventy-five.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:27:10    And we grew to about four 50 before the pandemic. Um, once I was in that position, uh, I, I, I had a real reality check of, Hey, culture engagement, all good, all that sexy stuff is amazing, but if your operations aren't nice and tight, uh, you are in a HEPA trouble. And, uh, and so through that journey of growing the organization and having to retract it as a result of, uh, of the pandemic, I learned a ton trial by fire. Some of those things like going through a layoffs, multiple layoffs, and having to lead that, that work. And, um, uh, some of that stuff you can't get, you can't get a degree for it. You gotta just live it. So when I, when I was ending my career there, uh, I recognized that I needed to round out my experience and really lean in on, uh, the people operations side of the house.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:28:05    And so Lattice presented itself as an opportunity. Uh, it was really fascinating to be able to be a part in, in, in terms of like how I've thought about the cultures and industries I'm in, working in HR for an HR product was fascinating to me. And I wanted to see how that rep presented itself in the community of employees. Um, and, uh, and, uh, I haven't been disappointed. We have a very grounded, low ego, high empathy organization, um, uh, high trust people understand the intentions and the, and the whys behind the work we do on the people side. Um, and, uh, so that's been awesome. We've grown tremendously over the last year. A lot of my work has been focused on navigating the pandemic and the kind of the, uh, residual impacts of that in terms of having a remote strategy. Um, we were growing like crazy, so done a lot of work around, uh, revamping our onboarding program, uh, to make sure that we're creating some more consistency in the employee experience and how we're bringing people into the organization. Um, uh, and a lot of work around our comp design and philosophy to make sure that we're still competitive and rewarding people fairly. Um, and, uh, and then, you know, in the world of, of operations, like catching every other thing that happens to pop up on the day to day <laugh> and, and navigating that, and, you know, the whole analogy of, of building the plane while you're trying to fly it and, and navigating that work,  

[Tom Finn]    00:29:38    It's not easy to do the operations piece. We, you know, it's one simple word, uh, but there is so much detail and systems and technology and integration that goes, uh, underneath that word.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:29:50    And you're making like daily decisions around, am I gonna build this for scalability? Or do I just need to get this thing done today? And like, <laugh> just being comfortable with that of like, making those trade-offs of like, Hey, this just needs to get done. And no, we're gonna pause and slow down a little bit and build something that's gonna have to last. Um, yeah, that's, that's been the adventure for sure.  

[Tom Finn]    00:30:14    Well, let, let me congratulate you on your one year anniversary as we're recording today. Uh, as you said on June 28th, so congratulations, uh, one year you're celebrating it on the talent empowerment podcast. We're gonna have to send you a cake or  

[Maurice Bell]   00:30:25    Something. There we go. <laugh>, we're, we're  

[Tom Finn]    00:30:26    On the hook. I, I can feel it. I, I own this now. Um, but, but let's go to remote work for just a second. Cause I think that's, um, on the sort of tip of everybody's tongue, we're trying to figure it out. We know that it's a changing landscape, but what's your take on remote work is, um, I imagine it's here to stay, but what are you, what are you doing about it that, that makes it more effective than perhaps, uh, models we've used in the past?  

[Maurice Bell]   00:30:51    Yeah, that's a great question. It's been a journey and I think we've embraced the reality that it's a journey. It's not a destination. Uh, I don't think we've got the thing fully figured out yet, um, by no means, nor do I think anybody does nor do. I think that dust is fully settled in terms of like true normal state around remote working, um, at large, uh, you know, we, I think found ourselves in that same place that I think a lot of companies were around trying to anchor ourselves to date. Right. All right. We're all gonna come back on this date and everything's gonna be back to normal and we'll be fine. Right. And we did that a few times. And this most recently, actually at the beginning of this year, we had a date, right? It's like March 1st. Okay. March 1st, we're gonna be a little settled at that point in the iterations, we knew that there was gonna be some more hybrid approach.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:31:44    Um, but you know, as the day came closer because of the leadership team, you know, one of our, our company values is clear eyes and it's about just being open and honest and like looking ourselves in the mirror and, and calling it for what it is and, and, and being real. Um, and I think we had a clear-eye conversation around, like, what's actually changing on March 1st. Like, what do we, what are we actually saying is gonna happen on March 1st? And I think in that conversation, you know, we're able to realize that we're already living this thing. Like it's clear that folks have been working remotely, it was required. And then we kind of created some optionality into it. We've clearly started recruiting and hiring remote cause we have to, and everyone's doing it and we need to be competitive there. Um, you know, and it's happening.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:32:36    So like let's not, let's not anchor ourselves to this idea that we need to change the world. So to speak on this specific day, let's actually just recognize what, what it looks like right now, name the things that are working well and own the things that we need to improve and address and just make those, make those adjustments. Right. But it was very much more, um, the approach of calibration as opposed to like a reset or a shift. Um, and so that's what we did at the beginning of the year. We called it. We, we actually, all the things we are remote first hybrid, that is our <laugh>, that is our strategy. Right. We got a little bit of everything for everyone. So, uh, if you are looking for a remote first experience, we're here for that. And we try to do some work around, uh, you know, we've built out an approach that's really focused on community building flexibility, um, and, and kind of support.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:33:29    Those are like the areas that we try to apply to both the remote first experience, as well as the hybrid experience. Um, and very much about the experience. I think that's where we are right now of there's the mechanics and the policies. Yes, those are getting flushed out. I think we're also learning and paying attention to what's happening more at the state level around, uh, employment, law practices and policies. And we're, we're being keen to those. Uh, but the things that feel more fully in our control of the experiences that we create. And so how are we supporting people that are working remotely, uh, both with benefits and offerings and opportunities, um, to where they feel like it's meaningful work, uh, how are we building connection both in person and virtually and across, um, you know, and, and how are we providing support for some of the mental health needs, uh, socio-emotional needs that are happening for someone that's working remote and we're learning all these things, but we're, I guess my point is we're being intentional about looking at it, understanding it, collecting the insights from our people and then responding, uh, timely.  

[Tom Finn]    00:34:38    Yeah. Well, well said. And how do you, how do you maintain performance? How do you maintain wellbeing when, when people aren't coming in the office and you can't physically see them, these are all big business challenges that we have to sort through, um, and, and really make it effective so that our cultures, um, you know, when you can't just walk around the office and say, hello, we've still gotta figure out how to do that in a virtual environment to support the employee experience, as you said, cuz that's how you retain people. Is they, they love working here. They, they want to, they want to come to work at, at their home office. Right. And uh, and they want to feel some connection and trust, uh, with the other folks that they work with, even though they're not in person. Um, which is, which is so critically important.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:35:20    The one point I'll say on that, that I think you highlighted here is I think a lot of people potentially a lot of organizations potentially spend time trying to create culture. And they're thinking about how do we create a remote first hybrid culture. Um, but I, I think there's something about that. That is not exactly, it, it, you can't, you can manifest and like foster culture, but it's happening. Culture is happening every day. And I think the reality of it is we've been living in this environment now for the last two plus years like culture has been created, it's there and it's more the duty of the organization to understand it, recognize it and be intentional about where they want to reinforce it, reinforce that culture versus were, uh, they want to try to make some incremental shifts.  

[Tom Finn]    00:36:12    Yeah, well, well said, and, and as we, uh, we've talked about some pretty heavy topics today, I mean, we've gone through the, the intentionality of, of moving companies and the intentionality of leadership strategy, being able to shift strategies on the go. Um, I love the phrase being clear eye and having clear eye conversations internally. I think that's something that, that we can all adopt and use, um, in terms of our language, as we talk to each other in leadership teams. And, and I think all of this is grounded in that sort of advocacy that you have for culture and community and people, um, which, which is so beautiful. Um, and, uh, and, and you've done it so elegantly across your career, but I can't leave this conversation after all of this good stuff, without knowing a little bit about your gospel choir experience <laugh> and if you're still singing  

[Maurice Bell]   00:37:03    <laugh>, I, I, I, I hate to disappoint some of the folks that might be inspired by that the I'm not a gospel choir person. I'm not, I, I embraced the, of opportunity to, but so, so basically the way that happened was it was senior year of college. I basically wrapped up my, uh, my degree requirements and I had a couple quarters where, uh, I just needed credits. And so I was like, all right, well, let me, let me use this opportunity to, to check out some different things. I've always, um, appreciated and, and, uh, admired, uh, particularly gospel music. I'm, I'm not a super religious person, like spiritual, for sure, but not super religious, but there's something about gospel music where it kind of that, that, um, it just brings that life into you and you can kind of feel the spirit, right. Uh, and so that that's always, uh, been something that's fascinating to me and, and I had credits and the class was available and I said, all right, well, let me, let me see what this is about.  

[Maurice Bell]   00:38:05    What am I gonna go for an hour, uh, you know, a couple of days a week and sing and, and learn some gospel music. Why not? Uh, so that happened. And then there was actually a, uh, uh, envisioned vocals was like a, a smaller subset group, uh, that came together. And, uh, I had some good friends on that. And so I said, well, yeah, I'll do, I'm having fun with this. Uh, and so I, it was very much in the the-moment college experience. Oh, by the way, I was also taking a yoga class. I took a drama class. I took a class on the art of listening, which was, which was fascinating. Yeah. So that's kind of how that came together. So I still listen, I don't sing unless you, you might catch me here and there in the shower, if, if, if you're so lucky  

[Tom Finn]    00:38:46    <laugh> yeah, fair, fair enough. I, I just had to get the story outta you because it's on the LinkedIn profile. And, uh, if you, if you want to catch Maurice, uh, and you want to catch more of him or connect with him or, or, uh, just listen to some of the things he's doing, um, how could we get ahold of you? Maurice  

[Maurice Bell]   00:39:04    Best avenues are probably linked in, uh, you know, I'm, I'm, I talked a little bit about my, uh, kind of self-brand and the challenges around that. I'm not, I'm not the best at it. I'm not an active LinkedIn person, but I check my messages. So, uh, if there was anything that inspired you on this call that, uh, you're interested in connecting on and having a conversation around and, uh, I'm here for it. Shoot me a, shoot me a message and send me a connection on LinkedIn, and we'll talk  

[Tom Finn]    00:39:31    Awesome, Maurice. Well, thank you for being on the talent empowerment podcast. It's been great to have you on  

[Maurice Bell]   00:39:37    This was fun. Thank you for having me all.  

[Tom Finn]    00:39:39    Well, I hope this conversation has lifted you up so you can lift up your teams and your organizations. We'll see you on the next episode of talent empowerment. And in the meantime, let's get back to people and culture together.  

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Talent Empowerment for more information on our show. And today's guests head to the show notes or visit talent, And as always, don't forget to subscribe wherever you're listening. So you never miss an opportunity to empower yourself and your people. And if you enjoyed today's episode, please leave us a five-star review. It really helps the show grow and a final thank you to our sponsor leg up and their people development program, Talent Insurance, to learn more about how they guarantee retention employee wellbeing, and employee performance through one-on-one professional coaching, visit 

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