Tim Renjilian shares his experience and insights on the challenges of sustaining and strengthening culture in the evolving remote/hybrid workplace. Tim provides solutions leaders can deploy to keep teams engaged and to convey cultural values. From both pre- and post-pandemic perspectives, Tim offers important lessons on the critical aspect of building and maintaining culture from a distance, while leveraging face-to-face opportunities to the greatest advantage.
About the Guest:
Tim Renjilian is Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting and has been providing consulting services to attorneys and corporate clients for over 30 years. During the past two decades, Tim has concentrated on the health care sector where he has helped clients in a wide range of matters relating to regulatory compliance and legal disputes. This work has involved the Federal False Claims Act; the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute; the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, and other laws. His clients include hospital systems, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, home health companies, durable medical equipment suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, payers, and others.
Tim regularly conducts independent review and monitoring activities in connection with Corporate Integrity Agreements and other compliance-oriented regimens. These engagements frequently involve working collaboratively with government agencies to develop appropriate analytical methodologies and reporting formats. He has performed special reviews and investigations in connection with allegations of fraud or impropriety. This work often involves presenting and defending the results of our analyses to management, boards of directors, and state or Federal regulators. He has also served as an expert witness in a variety of forums.
Detailed bio at: https://www.fticonsulting.com/experts/tim-renjilian
About the Host:
Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues. Debra is a 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.
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 Debra brings to her work. As a nationally recognized expert on the virtual workplace has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University. Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.
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Welcome to the Remote Leadership Podcast. I'm Debra Dinnocenzo and I'll be your host and guide as we explore new challenges and proven keys to success for leaders and teams who must get results from a distance. For more than two decades, I've helped organizations and leaders successfully go virtual. Now that we're all on a trajectory toward the next normal of work from anywhere and hybrid teams, I'm excited to share with you the insights and expertise that 1000s of leaders and teams have acquired through my books, coaching, training, and presentations. Join me to learn tips, techniques and skills that leaders and teams in your organization can implement now to achieve effectiveness in our evolving remote workplace.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. I am very excited today to have with us my guest, Tim Renjilian. Tim and I have known each other for a long time, I would love to hear yours, maybe yes. And so I wanted to ask Tim to join us today to talk about his organization and the impact that COVID had, and maybe his continuing to have on culture in the organization. And I'll just share that Tim and I talked at the very beginning of COVID way back to that really early stages when none of us really knew what was going on, right? And how is going to impact things. And so Tim was sharing with me some of the his concerns about how the culture would be protected. And some of the ways that they were inculcating the culture with new team members. And so we'll share more about that as we go on. But I'd just like to say, Tim, thank you for joining me today.Tim Renjilian:
It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Tell us a little bit about what you do.Tim Renjilian:
Sure, I'm with a public company. It's a consulting firm called FTI consulting, and FTI overall focuses on issues that are sort of critical events in the life of an organization. So that may be litigation, bankruptcy investigations, regulatory issues, you know, those kinds of events, because they sound scary to generally they sort of existential passivity. My work is all in the healthcare space. And healthcare is one of the most regulated industries we have. So every healthcare organization is either trying to put in place the right things to stay out of trouble to stay on the right side of all the rules and regulations, or is dealing with some sort of non compliance that they have to investigate and address and prevent from happening going forward. So I work across the healthcare spectrum with a team that consists of statisticians, clinical people, data analysts, regulatory experts, operational experts, but dealing with these complicated healthcare regulatory issues. Okay,Debra Dinnocenzo:
so your team, pre COVID, and probably now increasing these back together face to face, which sounds like that's probably a pretty critical aspect of how they work together, unless they're on site withTim Renjilian:
a client. Well, that's right. And it's really some of both. And it can vary from project to project. But there's, there's a lot of work that we do in our offices, especially when we're dealing with data and data analytics. But there was also worked out at client sites where we are reviewing operations, interviewing client personnel making presentations to management, so all of those different modes of work are part of what we do. Okay.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So was it when when COVID happened, and you know, we all went into lockdown, and everybody had to go home, you sent everyone home, your company sent everyone home like everybody else. That's right. How did y'all function then?Tim Renjilian:
Well, I was very honest with everyone and told them I thought this might last longer than two weeks. And it turns out I was I was brought on. But yeah, I mean, if you remember when this first happened, incredible uncertainty, right? I mean, right, everybody went home, and we didn't know what was next or what that would mean. And so, you know, initially, we were just trying to stay in close contact with our team. So you know, having group zoom meetings, lots of one on one calls, lots of emails by whatever information we had. But one of the first really critical points we hit in that was that we had already extended offers to summer injure, we have an annual summer internship program, and we had new hires that were slated to start in the summer. And as you know, the first weeks of the pandemic winbind To begin to realize this is going to take a lot longer than we were initially thinking. It wasn't just waited out for two weeks, and then that disease is gone. We realized a lot of the firms around us for canceling those summer internships, or were deferring new hires, or in some cases, even rescinding offers. And we had to really look internally and say, What are we going to do about that? Because, you know, it would feel like a breach of trust with those people to whom we had already extended offers, if we change to that, but at that point, we also have no confidence that it could work that we could take on new people that we could run an intern program, it'sDebra Dinnocenzo:
not in the traditional way that you take in the mind, which is bring them into the office, and as every call go out for dinner and content, go axe throwing.Tim Renjilian:
Exactly right.Debra Dinnocenzo:
A critical part of culture develop.Tim Renjilian:
Axe Throwing is always integral to any good culture. Yeah. Well, yeah, no, that's exactly right. So it was a question. First of all, are we going to go forward with these new hires and with these interns? And second? If so what is that going to look like? Because your writing had been an intensively in person experience? Yeah, lots of hands on learning lots of social activities. And those were the ways that we really communicated about what we do and what we're like, as a team together, you know, what our culture is? Yeah. And so thinking about those challenges in this radically different context, in a really short period of time, because we didn't have a lot of time to completely reconfigure our internships, I really had to lean into that to figure out how to make it happen. Yeah.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So did you go through a process then of bringing to greater consciousness, the culture that you were trying to instill and protect in a way that hadn't been as conscious before?Tim Renjilian:
Yes, and no, I mean, I would say on the one hand, you know, within our team of folks in the healthcare practice, we, prior to COVID, had a very clear sense that we had something special in our, we had a good group of people who are talented professionals, who also were committed to each other to each other's success and, and care about each other personally, and there was just a great dynamic inside of that. So it has always been something we were really conscious of, and that we, you know, touted to recruits. But with the change with the pandemic it was it made us think differently about how we crystallized that and communicated that to others, right? Because it, you know, before it could just happen, hey, if you're with us, you'll see it, you'll see what we're like together and the fun that we have and the intensity we bred osmosis thing. Exactly. It's you didn't have to be as intentional about it. Once we pivoted to saying, Okay, we're only going to engage with each other virtually. How do you how do you carry that forward, because you don't have the random funny moments in the hallway, you don't have the lunches together, where a lot of the stories come out. So we had to think about what are the other ways that we're going to make that happen,Debra Dinnocenzo:
right. And I think many organizations are still looking at doing that in a hybrid way. And that, you know, battle for talent now means that many organizations are hiring people who aren't going to be on site, they're in another city or another state or another country. So I'd love to hear your insights about what you all did at that point, because I think it's still very relevant today, even though more people are back in the office, not everybody can beTim Renjilian:
Yeah, well, you know, when we were purely virtual, we did several things. I mean, I think we made the moves that most organizations made just to have regular team meetings, you know, we'd have the sort of Hollywood Squares on Zoom everybody in the group together. And that worked for a while, but we quickly figured out indeed, something more than that. So you know, sometimes those meetings are substantive, we started doing some that were purely fun, where we would create a theme, we'd show baby pictures and figure out who the baby was, we'd have these sort of two lines in a truth session where, you know, people would make up two things that were untrue about themselves and one that was true, just you know, different ways to try to create a little fun and energy in the group that we convey some some of that we also set up a a sort of managed rotation of one on one calls, and this is where I think my days really changed. Because, you know, previously, I can sort of communicate my value my thoughts about how we do business and how we work together, just indirectly through osmosis, as you said, people would have observed that they, you know, quick conversations, little kind of teachable moments. You don't have those opportunities when you're working virtually. So we've started moving to a lot more you know, I would have one on ones with each of my team members is thirty minutes each, but you do ten or twelve of those a week. That's a lot of time, right? So, you know, personally, I felt my days getting longer, and in some ways more draining as you're trying to convey emotion and authenticity and connection through a computer screen. You know, you're that level of emoting takes a lot of energy as well. It's very tiring it is and I think we've all got On stronger muscles that over time, but particularly early on, it was raining. But it also felt really necessary just to give people the opportunity to see. And not just me with members of our team, but members with each other as well. So my manager would then talk to the staff and the senior consults, many of them would do the same thing, but all around trying to come up with different permutations to make those connections.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So how did you handle that? First, I assume you, you continued with your plans for the in terms for that first summer? We did. But did you onboard them? We just did a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and onboarding. So how did you onboard them and integrate some of these techniques with your existing team? But you had to ramp that up for the new people? Particularly I would say, so. Talk with us a little bit about how you did that? Yeah,Tim Renjilian:
well, you know, it was it was a lot of that same kind of approach of reading group sessions, where, you know, our group of interns could all be together on a call hearing from one of our practice leaders about different parts of the practice. And the intention behind that, obviously, was to convey that information, here's some of what we do and meet some of our senior people. But it was also still to try to create that sense of the intern group being a cohort under themselves and getting to know each other groups, because these will be people in disparate offices, who were then even more desperate as a result of working remotely. But that sense of not just being you know, a new person coming into an organization, but being part of a group of people that you're going to experience all of this together the class, that's still really important, I had been important in in person setting and almost more important in a virtual setting. So we wanted to facilitate some of that connection. We also had to, you know, of necessity, become a lot more disciplined and around specific kind of exposure encounters getting people plugged into different kinds of projects, we created some overarching projects for the interns that were still important projects for our practice, you know, forms of research and analytics that were going to help our business, but that were also a steady source of activity and engagement for the endurance, so they had productive things to do during the course of the summer. You're putting all of that together with these different permutations of one on one conversations or small group conversations, though, those became the focal point to get this mix of substantive conveyance of information, but also networking and connection building and all sorts of different ways.Debra Dinnocenzo:
So did you convert the interns to hires at the same rate out of that first group? So we're talking two years ago? That's right. Yeah. Did they convert at the same rate? Did you notice any difference in your ability to, to bring them on to staff full time?Tim Renjilian:
Yeah, great question. And it was a real source of worry, coming into it, but the short answer is, yes, we did. We had great success with that. And, you know, I think, you know, I would still probably argue that our ability to fully convey our culture in the traditional sense, was somewhat diminished by that it's just not the same as being in the office with a bunch of people and seeing how they act together. But it was enhanced in some ways as well, because that initial decision to go forward with our commitments to these recruits, and then the obvious effort that we put into their experience, also communicated a lot about our values in a way that we wouldn't have necessarily been able to otherwise. So we were differentiated from some of our competitors. I think our interns just were grateful for the experience that they had, and for how seriously we took it and how committed we were to them having a good experience,Debra Dinnocenzo:
especially since they probably had colleagues and peers who didn't have internships that summer. And so in, did they more readily adapt, you think, to the, the remote experience than some of your existing team members?Tim Renjilian:
Yeah, that's a really great question. I think, you know, I mean, in some ways, we were all adapting at the same time, because these, you know, younger professionals were, you know, either still in college or fresh out of college. So they, you know, have been, you know, adjusting to the virtual experience themselves, but we're also generally in three palaces and with their friends, so they were adapting and getting used to this new form of working as well. But they also didn't have a frame of reference. It didn't feel like there was something lost. This is still all new.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah, just the way it's done. So yeah, so did you do the same thing last year of this curious already potential, you have those in terms back on site? SoTim Renjilian:
Yeah, that's right. So I'm have to read this year But I'm in the still be ongoing time more than COVID. Yeah, so we actually did have some in person experiences in the summer of last year. We didn't. We had some fairly rigorous policies around return to the office, you know, once the vaccines came out, and we can start to let people back into the office, we were not at full capacity by any means last summer, but we did have a better opportunity to bring people together, particularly in social settings. So when we're, you know, as restaurants were starting to open back up, we could do some events. But we were also gathering, we did some picnics in the park and Piedmont Park in Atlanta, just to give people a safe outdoor opportunity to actually be with the people they've been engaging with, on their computer screens. And there was a real hunger for that. Yeah. So it still wasn't the same. But it was beginning to, you know, weave together both forms of connection, and virtual panel with some in person.Debra Dinnocenzo:
You know, I find young people in college or just recently out of college, very adept at the technology associated with connecting remotely, but really valuing the the in person face to face time, for whatever reason,Tim Renjilian:
I think it's so true. Yeah. And I've suspected, it may be somewhat different in consulting, where I think there's a little bit more of a natural inclination to, to want to connect with people and to be a self starter are hungry for new experiences, wanting to learn new things. So for us, you know, it was relatively easy to get people to start coming in and engaging, you know, in person, again, because there was a hunger for that. I mean, that's really what you know, a lot of our younger professionals are looking for is not just the job experience in the sense of the subject matter of the project, but also the hands on learning the mentorship the relationships, internally, with the firm and with clients. And so to that extent, it's been a little bit of an easier sell to get people to want to be together because they're naturally wired that way. Anyone?Debra Dinnocenzo:
So one thing so as I like to ask leaders is what what insights did we gain or experience? Did we gain from COVID that we want to carry into the future? Well,Tim Renjilian:
I think the biggest thing for me and as we think about that process of having people to start coming back into the office, is keeping in mind that you wanting to have really specific objectives for people being together. So you know, when we were coming in the office three COVID was just default, right? It was what you did. And we were always fairly flexible about people needing to work from home for whatever reason, but it was by far the exception and not the rule. As we started to think about people coming back into the office, it was people, what's, what's the point of that? What's the value in and being really specific and intentional about that, and then making sure that those things happen. And that's how I feel about it. Now. I mean, regardless of the work environment, you know, our commitment within our team has always been, you get your job done, and you've got the flexibility to get done in whatever way makes sense for you. Which means that people couldn't do an awful lot of their work remotely. My concern is that there's something lost inside. Yeah, right. Or, or at least there's an opportunity that's missed. And now, you know, as we go forward, people are coming back in the office more, I think it's really important that we not lose sight of what we're trying to achieve by being together. And the more we do that, that actually puts us in a stronger position. I think then we were in before COVID happened, because now we're really thinking about that and making it worth people's while to be together.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah. Yeah, that's, I think that's a really important point, we did it kind of unconsciously before, it's just what we did. I think that's particularly true in organizations that let go of a lot of real estate children COVID. And they can't bring people back in altogether at the same time, even if they wanted to. So they have to find new models. And then they you know, rent a hotel conference room or something right to get everybody together. But then they really have to think about like, because they're paying to rent that space. Yeah. So they really have to think about what you know, what they want to accomplish. And, you know, big point for me is leverage the heck out of that face to face time that you do have, because it will increasingly be limited. I think so. So as we wrap up here, I'm curious about your two things. One, have you invented virtual extra? Not yet figured out a missed opportunity?Tim Renjilian:
Someone's gonna make a mental Yeah,Debra Dinnocenzo:
exactly. I was counting on you to and secondly, for leaders who have to continue to onboard and integrate into their teams, new team members who are going to be remote or at least remote a good chunk of the time, what advice do you have for them?Tim Renjilian:
I think the probably two interrelated pieces of advice there. One, obviously, is that I think you need to be really intentional and direct in your efforts to build culture and connection, you can't rely on osmosis in a remote environment, it's too easy for people just to viewing their work as transactional, I got it done. And now I'm finished, and not to build those connections. So think about how those connections can get built, and why they matter and other mutually beneficial, I it's not just transactional to the benefit of the organization, it is actually really valuable to the individuals, but sometimes they need some help, you know, seeing that or making that clear. I think the other point that connects to that is recognizing that all of your people are agents of your culture. So it's not just going to come from the leader of the practice. First of all, that wouldn't work anyway, second of all, there's just not enough time in the day to do that. But to make part of your culture, recognizing and celebrating and transferring that culture to others, I think is really important to name what it is you have what's special about your team and about those relationships, to honor and celebrate it, and then to communicate it to others, I mean, that then it becomes a self perpetuating thing, because it's not just an employee being connected to their boss, it's a web of connections, and everybody has a plan that so even in a virtual setting, looking for ways to make that happen to create all of those different, you know, bilateral and multilateral connections, I think is really Yeah, you know,Debra Dinnocenzo:
what I love about that, what came to mind, as you're talking about that is that, you know, every everyone's a culture ambassador. That's right. And if we were making that conscious, and, and keeping it conscious, because it was more unconscious before, then you know that people are more aware of that. And it's doing that on a day to day basis, which is very powerful.Tim Renjilian:
It is. And honestly, what I've seen is that it really helps with the engagement of your more experienced people as well. Now everybody feels a stake in the game. Yeah, first of all, they've, they've been able to put words to what they like about where they are. And once they start transmitting that to other people, they've now created some accountability there, I've told you how great our place is, it's on me now to make it great for you. Right, and that, that is something that's important as well. So you, you don't just quit and leave those people behind, you want to stay continuing their growth as well. So I think there's a, you know, a benefit that goes up the food chain as well, which is,Debra Dinnocenzo:
think about the impact the positive impact of that now with the challenge, you know, the the challenge of retaining talent is so significant in this day and age. So that's already been doing that and staying positive, and continuing to focus on making the culture even better. So for talent, not just attraction, but retention,Tim Renjilian:
and even Bo through COVID. Internally, we celebrated the wins when we made our internship program work, we celebrated when we hired those interns, it was a big deal for all of us, and we share that glory around because that really, you know, was meaningful to everybody. And everyone was part of that.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Yeah. You know, one of my big messages when I talk to leaders all the time is one of the risks of being remote is we forget about celebrating successes, because we we knew how to do it it you know, when we were all together, you know, we just order a pizza, bring in some cases, some beer, but But you know, we it was just felt more natural. Yeah, it's, it's harder to do. It's not necessarily harder. It's harder to remember to do it. That's right. Yeah. So but it's important for people to recognize that they're being recognized when they've accomplished something, just being able to hire and keep some interns around. So big accomplishment this day and age. So it's exactly right. Yeah. So any other thoughts? You would like to share anything I missed asking about?Tim Renjilian:
I don't think so. But this has been great. Yeah.Debra Dinnocenzo:
Okay. Well, thank you for joining us. And I appreciate everybody listening in once again, and we'll see you on the next round. Thanks so much. Thanks for listening to this episode of the remote leadership podcast. If you found value in what you heard, share this with your colleagues. And if you haven't already, please be sure to subscribe rate and review the show on your favorite podcast player. Additional free resources and direct ways to reach me are available at remote leadership podcast.com Thanks for listening and for always learning.