Al Schnur and Debra Dinnocenzo discuss the critical role of organizational culture, both the stated culture and the ‘lived’ culture that people experience. Al overviews the importance of understanding the culture and how to assess the state of an organization’s culture. The impact of culture and how it’s communicated and strengthened in remote/hybrid environments is explored, along with best practices for ‘remote first’ organizations that are focused on employee retention. Challenges and solutions for leader effectiveness in remote/hybrid environments are highlighted. 

About the Guest:

Al has spent his 30+ year career in the talent assessment industry. Originally joining PCI in 1991, he returned to lead PCI Talent Assessment Solution’s next chapter in 2001. He is passionate about developing long-term relationships with his clients, empowering his teams to continuously improve processes, and advising C-suite executives and boards.  His current focus is on succession planning, high-potential development, and executive coaching.

Earlier in his career, Al worked for Development Dimensions International (DDI) where he developed expertise in designing assessment centers, 360-degree feedback processes, performance management, and training and development programs. He later joined ePredix, an internet start-up that developed online candidate screening tools.  Al has conducted over 5,000 assessments, and more than 150,000 candidates have participated in programs he designed.  

Al received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kansas State University and earned both a Master’s and Doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana State University.  He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the Association for Corporate Growth.

 

Connect with Al: Alschnur1@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/alschnurphd/

https://pciassess.com/

About the Host:

Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership. Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space. As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course.

Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting, coaching, and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author. 

Debra is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/debradinnocenzo/

https://dinnocenzospeaks.com/

https://virtualworkswell.com/

Schedule a call with Debra HERE

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Transcript
Debra Dinnocenzo:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership Podcast. I'm very pleased to welcome my guest today Al Schnur. Al is President and CEO of PCI talent assessment solutions. Al has spent his 30 plus year career in the talent assessment industry. And as passionate as you'll soon see, about developing long term relationships with his clients, empowering his teams to continuously improve processes, and advising C suite executives and boards. We've just established a partnership with PCI and without so I'm very excited about the work we'll be doing together. And the opportunity, we'll have to discuss all of this in more depth in a future podcast. So welcome, Al. And thank you for joining me today.

Al Schnur:

Well, thank you so much for having me looking forward to the discussion. Yeah,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Yeah as am I so Al I, as an IO psychologist with both masters and doctorate degrees in industrial organizational psychology? I know you've worked with clients to address issues related to their cultures. What are some of the initial questions you ask and information you need to uncover to really understand the state of an organization's culture? That's

Al Schnur:

a great question. And I think in our business, it's all a matter of measurement. So what we'd like to do in the end game, of course, is for us to help organizations attract, hire, develop, retain better people, people that are going to fit with the culture. So the first thing I want to find out is what is the organization of culture. And most organizations have a lot of information around around culture, I think it starts with the organization's mission. And then organizations are going to have values, they're going to have a vision, critical success factors, but it all gets down to the competencies, what behaviors are going to support the organization, that culture? Now, I think that a couple of things come to mind. You know, first of all, you can do a lot of work on defining your culture, say, at the board level, at the senior executive level, but what is really being translated down to the organization level down to the rank and file leadership employees, that type of thing. Rick's Wagan, who you know very well, is. I really liked this, that culture trumps everything. So the first thing I want to understand is what is your defined culture? And then secondly, what is the actual perceived culture? And then this gets into the measurement piece of doing interviews, looking at organizational surveys, potentially, and looking at different looking at different measurements, like turnover data? How where are you? Where are you losing people that you don't want to have leave? And there's Glassdoor door is a great source for finding information about a company, they, you could really look through a lot of information organization and your right to glass door. And you can see where some of the disconnects are. But I don't think there's any replacement for doing an organization wide culture survey, communicate information back and then seeing what the disconnects are, then most importantly, addressing those things.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Yeah, that goes beyond just, you know, senior leaders saying, well, here are, here's our culture, here's what it is, here are culture values. And by the way, those values are posted in conference rooms everywhere you try to get at, like, what do people really see, believe, and understand the really, really to be of the culture.

Al Schnur:

And I would take it down another level, that we're talking about the organizational culture in general, but if I work for your company, and you are a jerk as my boss, that is my culture right there. So I think it gets into very quickly, we go from the high level all the way down to the practical level of are our leaders doing what we want, are they living the values, communicating values, proactively doing that, and our systems aligned to bring in developing and rewarding, there's an old saying that you don't get what you want, you get what you pay for. So culture may have gone beyond, you know, too far beyond the initial question,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

but Oh, no, no, that's great. Yeah. So So I mean, you have ways to measure that and get real, real data as opposed to just kind of what people tell you. Right? So, you know, and I've talked about this, but you know, building culture in remote and hybrid organizations has some unique challenges that everybody's facing right now. In my latest book, remote leadership, we discussed the importance of having what's called a remote first culture. And this means, as you know, that leaders must see the organization is primarily hybrid or remote or distributed whatever language they use. I mean, more commonly now it's hybrid, and align the culture with that reality, that understanding of, you know, we're a remote organization, and therefore everything needs to flow from that. So how are you seeing organizations you work with confront this, this culture challenge in the evolving remote hybrid environment.

Al Schnur:

A few years ago, everyone was going remote, no one was working in the office, then we have a lot of pressure for or in some even threats, as we talked about, if your person doesn't come back to the office, they won't be promoted that sort of thing. But I think what's really practically happening, this is already across clients I work with is this idea of hybrid, that people want to be in the office about two or three days a week. So that automatically creates a less structured, less visible situation. So I think the key is to is it around engagement is proactive, two way communication, seeking feedback. So there are things like regular check ins, video calls, virtual team meetings, promoting work life balance, being more flexible, recognizing achievements, again, you're gonna get what you pay for. So making sure that the you're communicating your culture, and you're rewarding people for doing the right things. Also making sure that people have access to the necessary resources. You need, just what you have in the office. Typically, that can be as simple as a printer communications, the right software, those sorts of things. And then promoting promoting professional development, and having consistent frequent messaging, it can be more, I've done a lot of this with my organization, having a lot more frequent meetings. And never assuming that if someone is quiet, they're in full agreement, what is more likely for you to research is that they disagree or not bought in. So it's confer it's confirming that people are bought in understand seeking feedback, making adjustments. And again, it's just engagement and communication, engagement and communication over and over and over again.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Right, right. And one of the things that came out in some research that I recently did, which I'll be talking about in upcoming podcast, is that it's so critical, all those reach outs, all the different tools that you mentioned, the ways for leaders to connect with their teams, it still won't happen unless it's planned, which is one of the differences. Of course, you know, when we were in the office would just bump into each other. And so that can, we thought that communication was happening really effectively, it might not have been just like, we thought we were being productive when we were all in the office. And I continued to we read in the media, all the time, leaders are saying, well, we need to get everybody back into the office because we can be more collaborative and more innovative. And we're just better when we're together. And you know, if you listen to that, they don't have any data to support that there is no data to support that. So it gets back to, if you want to retain good talent, you've got to be more flexible in the way that you organize your business, and the desire. And you and I were just talking about recently, some data you ran across the desire for people to have more flexibility is pretty high right now, and is going to continue, you know, we got a taste of that during the pandemic. And that's not going to go away. So how do we do this and do it well, and the big insight from the research that I did is we not only have to do all these things, but we have to plan them, which means leaders have to be incredibly organized planful and intentional in how they do this. And my sense is, you know, we're still just figuring this out. I mean, this hybrid workplace thing is like an airplane rolling down the runway, and we're still putting the wings on. In many ways. So what are some of the best practices, you see clients applying relative to engaging their people, particularly in the remote hybrid environment? And again, everybody's still just figuring out remote and hybrid. But are there any particular best practices that you see that you think are important for leaders to be aware of?

Al Schnur:

Well, I think it goes back to that everyone wants flexibility. So not only flexibility with where I work, but when I work, so flexibility in terms of hours schedules, people have children, people have activities, that's that sort of thing. So really listening to the employee He's and we have one client that has gone completely away from any sort of structure. It's all results based. Now, I think there are a lot of risks with that. But it we I think the idea is that we're more concerned about what people accomplish versus how they do it and how much time it takes, they always say the work expands to the time allowed for it, right. So recognizing that. But I keep going back to that the hybrid and remote is a weaker situation, employees have more degrees of freedom. And it's easier to sort of get lost and get distracted. And very quickly, try not to get too far deep into the selection and development piece. But it gets very quickly, it's a different type of person that is going to be highly effective working in offices structured and somebody's going to be working remotely in terms of their conscientiousness, their communication, their extraversion, so a lot of it. Companies that are doing as well, are making it explicit what the expectations are for managers in managing remote teams, and not just sort of leaving it to chance, I think that's definitely looking at it. But everything else for making sure you have collaboration tools, we've we're a very small organization, boutique consulting firm, but we've used we use a tool called Asana, which keeps tasks and follow ups. And one task I have on a regular basis, recognize accomplishments and reward successes. So things something as simple as that. So I'm not allowing myself to express gratitude every day, because all right,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

well, that's interesting, because every leader, there's, it has something that's going well within their team or that someone has done, but we how easily it is just to lose that in the shuffle of things, right? To not take time to do that. So to actually, you know, calendar, an item like that, it just forces you to remember and that's exactly the point that I was making. If we don't plan those kinds of things, it won't happen. And it does make you pause and look around and say, you know, what are the good things, some of the boards that I'm on a start, we start our meetings with everyone offers a win. And this is mostly from the departments within the organization, not board members so much. But everyone starts with a major when that happened in the last quarter since the last meeting. And you know that because then we're then we're looking at all the data and looking at all the things that aren't going well, and what we're going to do about that, but we've started with, you know, some perspective around things, there are a lot of good things going on. So and you did mention, I want to kind of save that, we'll be doing another podcast where we can get deep into some of the skills. But so little preview, we'll be talking about what are some of the behaviors and skills necessary for people to work well in a remote environment? Because I think your point is, it's not suited to everybody. And if bit if we need somebody to be working remotely, that, you know, what do we need to do to develop them to strengthen them, maybe reach out to them more often, and that sort of thing. So you also mentioned Al that you lead a small boutique organization, which I guess we could say your your PCI is a remote first organization, everything I see. And so has anything changed for you. And I don't know how long you've been remote first, probably before we had the term remote first, anything changed for you in terms of how you connect with your team, or your clients or how you deliver your services now that we're in the new era of being distant from each other, but still getting stuff done and doing it? Well?

Al Schnur:

That's a great question. When I was thinking about the answer to the question, I was trying to think when did I become a remote first type of person. And I think that's 30 years ago, you and I don't mention is international. And there were times when we were on the road, in the office or at the home office trying to catch up on laundry and everything else for being on the road all the time. So the it's, I had a lot of experience with that. But that really came to the forefront during the pandemic when everybody became remote. And everything went from in person or phone to video, which is a very different, different environment. So it's things that we did in our when my consulting firm, the weekly meetings, getting disciplined about having a weekly meeting. Now their preference, my team's preference is to do this by a phone, but it's the same sort of thing. And the other thing is to get feedback, understand what's going well I like stop, start, keep doing those sorts of things. And then try to eliminate the things that aren't, aren't productive. The other thing is to try to make it fun. So somehow I was taught I made a joke that we were having gonna hire some salespeople, but really low budget. So I had two rubber chickens that made noise, those that was the sales team. And somehow that evolved into these chicken memes, these chicken videos. So every time a new project or new client, somebody would find a funny chicken picture to send that to announce that we just got some new work so that we tried to keep it fun. Yeah, the other thing is, as you know, a lot of financial strains and pressure during the pandemic, just to keep companies profitable, keep everybody happy. So being more transparent in terms of the financial data, and profitability, and compensation, I think that was helpful as well. Then proactive communication and then supporting the home office, something as simple as I need a printer, I need printer ink. When I was in the office, you bought coffee, well, I'll buy you coffee in your office there that that type didn't make it as much of collaborative on an on site environment remotely, I think just try to keep all the good parts, and maybe have fewer of the distractions. So you and I joked previously that when I moved from corporate office, to the regional office, I realized I had all this extra time because I wasn't going to two hour meetings that seemed unnecessary once we're no longer in the corporate office. So try to try to find what are the most going back into the work life balance and flexibility of not doing non value add activities with your team just to do them? So communication with the purpose, board engagement and feedback? Two way feedback.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Yeah, two things. I was just talking with a leader the other day, who said, you know, yeah, they're making us go back in a couple days a week. And so went in yesterday. And at the end of the day, a real estate had hadn't gotten anything done. I talked to a lot of people, but I hadn't gotten anything done. Now talking to people was an important to do, right. I mean, so we have to be conscious of that. And the whole point is, we have to be conscious of so much more that we did, unconsciously, just like, you know, talking to people bumping into people, and then, you know, in the old days, I'd take two briefcases home, you know, now we can do so much more remotely. And it is true, we do tend to meet more when we're in the office together, although, particularly early in the pandemic, and sometimes still, today, I hear people are, you know, overload from so many zoom meetings, and or teams meetings. So, screen fatigue is is an issue, but I always remind them, you know, we just had meeting fatigue when we were in the office. So your chicken story reminded me of just a little story I want to tell from the remote leadership book, during the pandemic flu. Remember, early on, leaders were very concerned because people went home, suddenly. They didn't necessarily have all the resources that you just mentioned, Al, making sure they had all the right tools, because they just all of a sudden went home on a Friday afternoon. And we thought they were only going home for three weeks, right. And so but then as time went on, we found that people were going to be staying home longer under a lot of pressure, particularly organizations that were designated as essential businesses that had to stay open by government mandate, they still had to be managing people who were there, getting product out the door. And so one of the leaders that I interviewed for that book, and I use his name in the book, not his full name, his name was Winston, Winston got the bright idea, which was a bright idea to do some fun things because you mentioned about fun. So Winston said to his team, okay, we're going to have a meal together, we're going to cook dinner together. Here's what we're going to make was a chicken dish. So we gave everybody the recipe, told them to go buy everything. And then on Zoom, they were together going to cook their dinner, each in their own kitchens. And then, you know, break bread together virtually. So one of the funniest things ever that came out of that that a great experience. But one of the team members showed up with his pet chicken and introduced the rest of the team to his pet chicken. Nobody knew we had a pet show. I was quick to clarify that that chicken did not serve as the chicken for that team members meal, which it did not. And so you know, when we do things like that we do creative and fun things. Which my sense is we're doing less of that now because we're back into the you know, we got to get the work done, which is fine. We have to get the work done then as well. I always remind leaders let's not lose sight of the need for people to do those kinds of things because you never know what's going to come out Who knew this guy had a pet chicken, right? Which I resonated with because I had pet chickens when I was growing up, the first one was named tour. And so I've always gone fondly toward the chicken. So. So now it sounds like much of your work in assessing and identifying talent requires a clear understanding of the integration with the organization's culture, which I think that we're in kind of a cultural evolution as we're evolving the workplace. Do you think that is true?

Al Schnur:

Yeah, I think, but it's getting 100 said, you get back to principles rather than specifics around culture, and a lot of doing the right thing, doing the right thing when no one's watching, that sort of thing. And it's understanding that culture and then bringing people in, that are going to fit with that culture. Because you know, for example, worked with a large tire manufacturer, and they said they wanted change agents, that was one of their values, we are going to have change. So we help them assess man leaders for over a year, almost two years that had the ability to come in and affect change. They were all hired and gone within a year because the organizational culture was not changing, open to change. So

Debra Dinnocenzo:

they thought they want to change, they thought they want to change people that could affect change, but they really didn't.

Al Schnur:

We called it the cultural immune system. So it's, it's been really clear on what your culture wants, you want your culture to be what it actually is. And then if you may have people in your organization that are not aligned already with your culture, but the culture very, very basic things around how do you treat people, the way work assignments are doled out how opportunities for advancement are provided whether employees prefer to collaborate or work alone, whether casual dresses, okay, obviously, that's not a remote issue, what's talked about or taboo, whether there's pressure to work when you're sick, whether birthdays are celebrated how different departments and teams get along, whether you can have FaceTime with an executive, and so on?

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Yeah, yeah. You know, actually, I think dress still is an issue because people got really downhome casual drink. COVID. Right. And, you know, so I think that, you know, presents the appropriate level of presence and how you look on screen, just because you're at home, doesn't mean that you should, you know, look like you just rolled out of bed, and you know, in a crumpled t shirt, particularly if you're meeting with a client, I remember, during COVID, at one point by me three weeks in, I was talking with a guy, and he was in sales actually. And so it's interesting, because it was still through the in the three week timeframe. And his frame of reference at that time was, well, in keeping in touch with my clients, I'm reaching out to them, but I haven't really talked to any, like, new. I'm not talking to my prospects, because as soon as this soon as this lockdown, stuff is over, I need to get back on the road. Well, so then I talked to him a couple months later, and I said, so how's that going for you? Well, he had to learn how to, you know, if he was going to close sales, he had to do it remotely. But he was in, you know, he had this like beard that had like, you know, he hadn't shaved in a while and it's t shirt. And I said, Oh my gosh, Evan, are you like talking? Do you look like that when you're talking to clients and prospects. And so, uh, you know, a lot of people forgot about how they looked, and they look, you know, on screen ways that they wouldn't look if they were in the office. And that conveys a certain sense of not caring and not caring about yourself not caring about your work. And I think also, you mentioned that the issue of around should you work when you're sick? Well, obviously, we, you know, tried to encourage people not to be coming into the office, when they were sick, even before COVID When they had the flu, who, you know, we don't need somebody infecting us. At the same time. Uh, you know, people are entitled to take time off when they're sick, and they're not being so productive. I think we run into more situations when people work from home, and their kids are home because their kids are sick. And you know, the managing that is still a challenge. And so, in wrapping up, I'm just curious about our can you give our listeners a quick overview, um, you've you've kind of touched on some of the services that you provide, but a quick overview of the services that PCI offers and why a clear connection between your services, what you're happy to deliver, and understanding organizational costs. Sure first is so essential. Yeah,

Al Schnur:

I think if you don't mind, I just like to give some examples of types of cultures whose we spoke in generalities. I think that may lead it to answer your question. We'll both be caring, collaborative and supportive, purposeful, idealistic and altruistic, learning inventive and innovative. And some companies should start coming to mind as we list these things enjoyable, fun and stimulating, results oriented, driven by achievement and winning, authoritative, competitive and controlling, safe, predictable and risk averse, orderly method, methodical and cooperative. So as you see all these different types of culture, you can think about the different type of person that's going to fit or not fit in that culture. You can somebody say, going from working for good year to working for good for working for Google, very different things on tables and the casual dress versus suit and tie structure and all that sort of thing. So what we what we say is you are going, we can measure whatever it is you're looking for, but we have to know what you're looking for and be very honest about that. So PCI is a psychologist led boutique consulting firm founded in 1957. And we focus on psychological assessment for hiring, development and succession planning. We're trusted business advisors, we're not test resellers. So we help predict performance, promotion, promote ability, and help you plan for success. As an add on, we can also do individual and team level development and coaching to make sure that those potential liabilities not become actual ones if you hire somebody. So we start with a very clear definition of what you're looking for. And that goes mission to vision to values critical success factors. Once we get to the competency level, then we map our process on which is about a two and a half hour test battery and a psychologist interview, on to your competencies provide a rating of your competencies, overall rating of fit, we also rate organizational values. It's so somebody could be strong on the competencies, which are the what, but weak on the house. And that's the type of person that it is not that they're a bad employee or bad manager, they're a bad fit for your organization, because how they view the world motivations, that sort of thing. So in a nutshell, we help organizations make data based decisions been doing for a long time, and we'd love to talk to anyone who has concerns about how their current leaders are fitting into our perspective is going to fit into the remote or hybrid work environment. Excellent.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

And so if someone wants to learn more, or connect with you, what's the easiest way for them to do that? Oh, well,

Al Schnur:

if you just want to learn more, our website, PCI assess.com, has not only a description of what we do some of our validation research where we've demonstrated results, but also a lot of resources. Connect with me on LinkedIn, or a PCI company page, where you can easily find from my LinkedIn profile, but what I like to engage with clients is to offer to look at your existing hiring processes. Do you use interviews? Do you use testing, do use reference checks, simulations, exercise, that sort of thing? What results are you having? What's your turnover, review that data, and then spending at least an hour reviewing what you've done, what you're doing, making some recommendations and doing all that with no cost or obligation just so you can go back and say, well, maybe this is out of order, or I'm not getting the result I want here, that type of thing. But again, it all goes back to trusted advisor. We really as you started out the discussion, we focus on long term relationships with clients and being that trusted adviser that's outside of the process and is highly objective. Unlike a recruiter, unlike the hiring manager who really, really needs somebody. And obviously the candidate has tried to put their best foot forward and may have been trained how to get how to interview and get that job,

Debra Dinnocenzo:

right. So right. Okay, so you're and your solutions are tailored, obviously, based on what a client has been doing, improve that and add other resources, other tools, other instruments, if you will, to have that better connection between their culture, what they want and what they're going to get and how that how that talent will work well for them. Exactly. So, okay, we're going to meet again, we'll be doing another podcast to talk more about the partnership that we're doing and some of the nitty gritty around making sure that organizations hire and develop and promote the right leaders in this new evolving work environment. So until we meet again, our thanks for your time today and the great information that you shared on Additional information is in the show notes but you can reach out toAl at PC I assess.com And we look forward to connecting again so thank you well thanks