S5 E2 | CXR Podcast: Gaurav Chaubey discusses the hybrid workplace

Gaurav Chaubey, co-founder of Mesh, joins Chris Hoyt to share his insights on how to address the hybrid workplace needs of today's employees and tips for boosting remote/hybrid worker productivity.

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Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:21
I want to kick us off. We don’t have a fancy bumper, for this particular show. We’re going old school. But I’m Chris Hoyt president of CareerXroads. And I’m the host today for the CXR podcast. And we’ve got a new guest that many in our space may or may not have heard of, he’s sitting in a DS dialed in from Delhi. It’s Gaurav Chaubey, or we’ll call him GC. GC, welcome to the show.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 0:44
Thanks, Chris. Pleasure to be here.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 0:45
Yeah. Well, we’re happy to have you on you are you are just really quickly, you are the co-founder of Mesh. That’s a performance management platform built specifically for the remote workforce, right?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 0:56
Absolutely. With a performance management solution that’s actually first, first and foremost built for humans and not employees. And yes, we’re purpose building this remote and remote hybrid teams. So even a mix of in person as well as a distributed workforce. And really, the platform doesn’t only manage but actually helps knowledge workers accomplish goals and get useful, valuable, timely feedback, especially as they work in remote and distributed teams.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 1:23
I love it. I love it Well, before we jump in, because I want to know why they why do they need their own everybody’s a snowflake, right? Everybody’s got to have some just for them. So I want to know why they need you think they need their own performance management solution, because they’re not in the office. But before we do. Can you give everybody sort of an escalator pitch of who you are sort of a one minute why why we should care what GC has to say to us?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 1:46
All right, in one, good two lines really, Chris. Firstly, I’ve been a one trick pony all my life. And I’ll talk to you about why I say that. But in a nutshell, I’m a recovering human capital consultant. So well over a decade, you know, I have focused primarily on organizational effectiveness and performance management solutions, I’ve done 300 Plus client assignments across 30 geographies, right from funded hypergrowth startups to larger enterprises, in the form of Nestle, GE etc, on standalone consulting assignments. And truth be told, I actually quit my cushy corporate consulting career three months before making it to partnership, and an organization that I had put in my blood, sweat and tears for a decade for. And the only reason for that was that the whole world was kind of seeing a shift from traditional performance management to more modern new age practices. And there really wasn’t any technology out there that was looking at it in the inner people first positive psychology manner. And which is why I really wanted to kind of collaborate with my seasoned multiple time tech co-founders, to bring this vision to life. So that’s a little bit about me, and why possibly, even if I can’t share the do’s, I can certainly share the don’ts from my past life.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:02
I like that. And I don’t know that I could say cushy, corporate consultant. Three times fast. But yeah, regardless.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 3:11
It’s a magical alliteration

Chris Hoyt, CXR 3:13
Well it was fast. I don’t know you did it so quickly. But so if you could share a little bit with me why you think why you think someone who doesn’t work in the office full time needs some sort of different delivery from a performance management standpoint, why why something separate just for them? Why is it any different?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 3:34
All right, let me first kind of zoom out and set the context a little bit here. Because, you know, very often when I speak about performance management, or even people management training, remote or remote hybrid setting, people think, you know, there’s there’s a new science at play here. But truth be told multiple researchers that you don’t have to take my word for it. But multiple research is coming out, you know, the Microsoft world trend index survey, or the Great Places to Work Institute, in general will tell you that the biggest drivers of performance in an in person environment are actually the same in a remote environment. But for the longest time, we’ve actually been failing our knowledge workers, and and the new generations joining our workforce in actually doing a good job with modern performance management practices. But at the same time, 2020 and the forced shift to remote remote hybrid work as kind of expose this split wide open this this little crack would seem like good to have practices all of a sudden became hygiene practices. And the only way to scale these practices in a remote remote hybrid setting is by leveraging technology, which is the reason why you need to bring in these these practices that were emerging as modern performance management practices, even before the pandemic and start looking at tools that can scale this in a remote and distributed environment.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 4:49
So what would you say is one of those modern performance practices that are trending like give us give us an example of one that we might not expect?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 4:57
First up the biggest driver for engagement and performance is having a best friend at work. And it was easy to do that when you had the luxury of physical proximity. But it’s doubly hard actually establishing and making personal connections in a remote remote hybrid setting, especially when if you’ve joined an organization completely remotely. So here is where that big chasm needs to be kind of made up both from a cadence or a process point of view. But even more so from a technology point of view to possibly have those water cooler collisions, or those, you know, authentic conversations happening between remote workers,

Chris Hoyt, CXR 5:32
Those organic conversations over the last year for remote workers have really become more of a scheduled conversation, right? You’re not bumping into anybody while you’re getting a new cup of coffee anymore, or walking down the hall to your next meeting. Now they’re, you know, quick scheduled calls, right? Do you think that’s impacting performance, truly?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 5:51
Quick schedule calls to many of them and extremely unplanned? Yeah, they’re getting in the way of productivity, they’re getting in the way of you actually having meaningful conversations with your colleagues. You know, again, just like I like zooming out, I think one thing all of us can take a lot of pure solace, as well as pride is the fact that the human race has, again, proven how adaptable it is, because for the large part of the workforce that went through, has gone through the last two years, you know, who weren’t always native remote workers, but have been forced into that productivity is actually spiked. And productivity didn’t just spike for the short term, it’s actually sustained at a very, very high level. But at the same time, it’s a double edged sword, because the lack of hygiene in some of these conversations, the cadence, the structure, the agenda, having some of them about your to do’s and tasks, but making equal an ample amount of space about having agenda, less authentic conversations, were you getting to know the person behind the professional, you know, what the lack of that structure has really led to multiple cases of burnout, whether whether people realize it or not. And that’s really where both process cadence and even more so technology has a role to play, when it starts nudging people to realize, you know, the importance in the agenda and get off every conversation that’s scheduled on the on the calendar. And now even more, so every conversation that can’t be scheduled on the calendar needs to be done asynchronously using technology.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 7:20
Yeah, but I hear what you’re saying. I mean, we’ve talked to several leaders who’ve never really talked about, you know, this burnout issue is real, as all of us know, but they’re really having to flex new muscles, I think in the last couple of years with regards to managing, and I don’t I don’t know, better phrase for this GC, but but managing the entire employee, right, the entire team member, and listening a little bit more about what’s going on at home are being a little more tolerent, about, you know, background noise or distractions, from work and that that flex schedule, and I think that’s a that is kind of a big deal. And one of one of our favorite leaders, you know, continued to say that, you know, they were kicking off calls in the second round of stay at home, right? In the second year, they were kicking off calls, one on one saying, Hey, how are you? And they give the employee a chance to answer and then they’d say, Okay, but how are you? Right, and sort of an I hate to use this phrase, but sort of double clicking on sort of, you know, getting that employee to talk to them and realize they’re invested in them.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 8:16
I love I love what you say that it was to be honest. And if you’re struggling for a term at Mesh, we call it the whole self, you know, the whole employee, so we call it the whole self. And really, incollusion in general starts from not forcing people unlearning segregating your narrow professional self with, you know, the actual person that you are outside of work, per se. And really knowledge workers and, and the newer generations joining the workforce are kind of demanding that from people because it just doesn’t make sense. And neuroscience will tell you, I won’t throw any more jargon. But neuroscience will tell you it actually over a period of time starts to cause dissonance in your mind and hampers productivity any which way. But to your other point about people kind of starting to realize that they need to kick off zoom calls, by first kind of breaking the ice and starting to get to know people that shouldn’t just be an ad hoc five minutes, top of the meeting conversation to break the ice that actually needs to be a calendarized conversation that every people manager is scheduling with every team member that they care about, that they want to drive growth with, that they that are critical to the performance of the team. And, and this isn’t a new phenomenon. You know, around 2015-2016, when the likes of GE and Adobe, everyone started picking up their traditional annual performance reviews, and throwing it out the window. Everyone woke up and smell the coffee, which is where the role of the manager as a coach really started seeing a lot of prevalence and popularity. And the magic about coaching really is that in order to be an effective coach, you need to coach less and listen more. So two things that I’ve realized are very, very tangible skills that that are lacking, that technology can help kind of scale is number one the art of asking the right questions. And number two, the art or the culture writing everything down. Because both of these put together actually reduce, you know, the time spent in actual in person meetings, increase the quality of asynchronous collaboration. And when you actually spend time in in person meetings, you get to learn about the other person, you’re on the other side of the camera, much, much more than you would ever if you were a traditional manager who was just belting out tasks and reviewing deadlines.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 10:25
So So GC, you’re talking about, you know, those of us who have ever managed employees know, we don’t really don’t like doing performance reviews, I don’t know any leader who enjoys doing performance reviews, they’re a pain in the ass, they typically stack up towards the end of the year, and then you’re racing or scrambling or your team is racing, you’re trying to write down all the stuff that they feel they did well write down what they feel like they maybe could have done better. And now we’re sort of doubling down on trying to figure out how to manage people whom we don’t see live anymore, and the relationships and the dynamics has changed. But what I also hear you telling me is that the annual performance review is on the outs. Is that Is that am I hearing you right like that, that there’s a big shift coming in, are we truly going to move away from this because it kind of feel like we’ve been saying annual performance reviews are on the outs for years.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 11:12
I’m waiting to pop a bottle of champagne, when it actually actually happens around the globe, Chris, but we were one of those organizations that are trying to drive that change and accelerate it as quickly as possible. But I love how you described your the experience of the annual performance review, it just kind of encompasses everything that’s broken about that process, right? You’re getting at the 11th hour, a manager’s going in and individuals going in just trying to fill out the minimum character limit or a particular form that’s been kind of thrust into their faces, because there’s a carrot dangling at the other end that, you know, if you don’t fill this out, there’s no there’s no career conversations, there’s no progression, there’s no incentive, there’s no increment, so on and so forth. But the flip side of that, and something that, you know, almost every HR leader, as well as knowledge worker in your company will tell you is that the data that you collect through these annual performance reviews about your people, any which way is dirty data. 60% of it is marred by, by various kinds of human cognitive biases. Just imagine, I personally spent a decade in an organization, I had the best of leaders, a visionary CEO that I really looked up to who was very purpose driven. But if you extract data from 11, performance reviews that I went through in that organization, and I’m not in the room, and people who haven’t worked with me aren’t in the room, you, you can barely draw a vivid picture about my strengths, things that I really like working on the type of people I collaborate well with, so on and so forth. Now, imagine in a remote environment, if you don’t have a central, accurate repository of this data, how are you really linking your company’s top priorities and objectives with the best people to attack them? You know, you really have no hope whatsoever. So that’s really where the pandemic and this forced shift to remote remote hybrid work, which, which really, and the pandemics going to go away. I mean, with each passing wave, you know, we’re building resilience and, and I mean, so proud of all of us on the planet for actually overseeing and overcoming all of this. But remote hybrid works here to stay. Because if you look at organizations, they’ve hired talent around the world. They’re opposed to the great resignation, and all of these been symptoms. But really, what’s what’s going to replace performance management or annual performance reviews, is something that I like calling performance previews. And really how you look at it is not just waiting till the end of the year to have any sort of conversation, but allowing people to actually engage in those conversations when they have that moment of truth. In a summary, performance management needs to be if we have to succeed as an organization in a remote remote hybrid setting. And we need an if we want to meet the expectations of the newer generations, as well as knowledge workers, performance management needs to actually dissolve and be replaced by self management. And the only hope we have with actually organized planned self management where the sum is greater than the sum of the parts, is if we do two things well, which traditional performance management doesn’t do, which is encourage self expression, and deliver back real time analytics visibility to the entire organization to drive self awareness. Because if you don’t have an opportunity of feel included enough to actually self express yourself, be it around, hey, I’d like to work on this challenge. Get around, hey, can you give me feedback be it around Chris, you could, you could help me in this podcast a little better. If you tweaked the way you approach this in this manner, sorry to put you on the spot. And till that time, you’re not really predisposed to collecting accurate data to actually drive any sort of performance management. Secondly, annual performance reviews only only feel throughout the period like a black box with some surprising messages coming back to you that feel like they’re coming from an ivory tower. So self awareness in terms of really decentralizing and democratizing information about the company’s performance, the CEOs performance, the individual key members, performance managers performance, so on and so forth is the only way that you can establish that connect with your people and drive self management but not

Chris Hoyt, CXR 15:07
GC, are you I hate to interrupt you, but are you talking about creating some transparency with regards to leader performance, or how your peers were measured? Because there is I mean, there is an organization that’s in the news, I think, within the last week or so where they had an employee who was rated poorly told that they were rated poorly, but there was no way to measure, there was nothing to share with them as to how they could have done better or how the measurement was calculated, it seemed unfounded. So he left that organization, and as now lobbying for transparency, among the, you know, within the review process within organizations, is that sort of, is that what you’re saying?

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 15:46
Yeah that’s a classic case of Performance Management gone wrong. It is good that that particular case is up. And you know, it’s getting air in the media, per se. But I’d say 70% of the organizations that are doing really, really well out there and are possibly touted as the best employees to work for are sitting on a, you know, a similar kind of landmine of issues waiting to interrupt, because that’s how we’ve kind of dug ourselves into that hole by only looking at performance reviews as as kind of a means to an end in itself, per se, rather than actually driving performance, rather than actually helping knowledge workers be 1% better every day. And to answer your your earlier question, absolutely lobbying for complete transparency, because and I’m not saying this because it’s the cool popular thing to say, two big reasons why every organization needs to look at it right. First up, if you’re managing a distributed team, and simple things like goals, or progress on goals, be it at the org level, be it at the function level of be it at the team level, are shrouded or opaque, or not really transparent. That’s where you’re going to increase the meeting overload any which way because you need to be communicating every little change shift in person to people on a need to know basis. And that’s, that’s just going to make business managers, people, managers, just be full time messengers of changes and news across the organization. So it makes perfect business sense if you truly want to succeed as a remote hybrid organization to be absolutely transparent. Now, the second part is, if you look at, you know, we spoke about bringing the whole self to work, right? Today, if I idolize someone be it outside the workplace, I have access to the ins and outs of their thoughts, their beliefs, what they do with their day through, let’s say, social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn and I, I can select my role models with whom I can empathize and I can connect at a personal level. Why should that be any different for the CEO of an organization, especially if today, compensation is table stakes, and the best talent in the market is actually looking for more meaningful and purposeful work?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 17:50
Look I’ll say this for anybody who might be kind of shaking their head saying that level of transparency is never going to happen. I will remind you that not so many years ago, a lot of people were saying that a level of transparency with regards to compensation was never going to be achieved. And we’re already seeing states chip away at that New York City I think was the latest to hit the news that say that new jobs posted now must include for New York City now must include wages. So there is a there’s a movement in that direction. So I think there is something to what your what’s being said here by you and certainly how you’re presenting that. But I feel like we’ve got a long ways to go and it will take some pioneers are breaking shit along the way. But GC, let me ask you because I think we’re right about at time. If I am a TA leader, right, or a talent leader, and I’m at an organization that is not going to give up their annual reviews, right that one something I could do give me a tip or a hint to sort of help me move the needle even just a little bit in the in the direction of transparency or in the direction of better coaching and better leading my remote as well as my sometimes at work, workplace workforce.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 19:03
That’s that’s a great day powerful question, Chris. In fact, every organization trying to move away from traditional annual performance reviews into a more continuous performance management realm will always take baby steps because it isn’t like an electrical appliance, you know that you can plug out the old one and plug in the new one. So very, very simply put, deconstruct what needs to be confidential and what needs to be private between a manager leader and a team member. And typically this will in such shrouded traditionally shrouded cultures trying to break through will be your performance rating needs to be confidential, and your compensation outcomes from your performance rating need to be confidential. Now look at everything else that goes in as an input into these performance reviews, your goals, your feedback, your conversations with your manager, make those completely transparent goals completely transparent across the organization. Very easy to do. No one’s judging anyone else for the kinds of goals they’re owning or the progress that they make. In fact, if someone’s struggling, it’s a shout out for help, even before they put their hand up and ask for help, in terms of feedback, all appreciative feedback to be made socially visible to everyone really helps bind remote cultures, constructive feedback, maybe not so much better to share them in a safe private manner on an ongoing basis manager, one on ones have an update of the culture of writing everything down, which which has visibility between the manager and the individual, and allow the individual to share the visibility of that with HR leaders with their business leaders, so that they can kind of escalate certain things that they’ve been asking for in coaching conversations which aren’t happening, which gives you a great way to measure manager effectiveness as well. So in a nutshell, keep things which are very, very sensitive, which is typically your performance ratings, as well as your compensation decisions, private freedom as a necessary evil, but make everything that’s an input into that in the way that you see and define performance and the way you fuel performance, and make that completely transparent and visible to everyone else. Does that seem like a useful suggestion Chris?

Chris Hoyt, CXR 21:01
I think it’s certainly a start. I mean, that is not that is not one tip, that is a list. Entirely. So I haven’t been there.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 21:08
I warned you, I warned you. I warned you. I’m a recovering human capital consultant.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 21:14
But no longer cushy, no longer cushy,

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 21:16
No longer cushy whatsoever.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 21:18
All right, well, JC thank you so much. Again, anybody who wants to learn a little bit more about what GC does in the in the co founder and the work that’s going on over there. It’s mesh.ai is the website GC, thank you so much for jumping on the show. dialing in from Delhi. I know it’s late for you, but we really appreciate your time.

Gaurav Chaubey, Mesh 21:32
The pleasure was all mine, Chris, thank you for having me all that I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I don’t need my next cup of coffee today.

Chris Hoyt, CXR 21:38
There you go. Thanks. I’m not sure how to take that. But I’ll take it. Like I want to thank everybody. We’re back. We’re back for the new year. So you can check us out. We’re live streaming to YouTube for these as we go forward. So we really appreciate everybody dialing back in you can expect to see us out here about the same time almost every single week. We’ve got some new guests lined up we’re excited about if you need more information about what’s coming up in the podcasts that are scheduled ahead so you can make time to get on your treadmill and be with us live. You just got to go to CXR.works and until then we’re gonna see everybody online everybody take care

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