Welcome to Episode 10 of How People Work, where Jason and Cassandra Rose, Head of People at Fringe, discuss how putting people at the center will future-proof your company’s work and wellbeing strategy. In today’s business landscape, companies that prioritize their employees are the ones that stand out in tough times.
Cassandra and Jason begin by discussing the importance of making employee-centric decisions, especially during difficult times. They explore ways to prioritize employees’ well-being and satisfaction, leading to better business outcomes.
It’s an age-old saying: people don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad managers. The role of people leaders is crucial in creating a people-centric culture. Empowering and equipping them with the tools they need to support their team members is key to building a successful employee-centered strategy. Cassandra also shares some best practices for developing and training people leaders to foster a culture that values employees’ contributions.
Although there are few people who spend their whole careers at a single company anymore, employees can still have significant impact at a company in 3 years. Jason and Cassandra explore the importance of not looking at one’s tenure at a company, but the employee’s lifetime value when looking at the impact made in time there.
Your people are your greatest asset, and investing in them will ultimately drive your company’s success.
Now available on Spotify | Apple Podcasts | YouTube
How many hours and years of our lives do we spend on work for nearly all of us, we spend 30 plus years and one third of our days in our vocation, more time perhaps than we spend at rest or at play. But this isn’t a problem. Why? Because work is good. Work needs to be integrated deeply into our lives and must be in line with our most important goals and values. And if it is, we have a far more complete and fulfilling life experience. Welcome to the How People Work Podcast, where we explore the intersection of how humans think and act and how they apply themselves to their work. When you understand both of these things, you’ll be equipped to be insightful, compassionate, and compelling leaders.
Welcome back to the How People Work Podcast. It’s me, Jason Murray. I am hosting tonight. Jordan is actually not here, but I have a very special guest, Cassandra Rose, who happens to be the Head of People here for Fringe, and she’ll probably be a regular guest from time to time on the podcast here. We’re excited to have her. And so Cassandra, say hi to everyone here.
Well, hello. I’m so honored and really excited to be jumping on the podcast. I love podcasting because it allows me to multitask and learn at the same time. So thank you for allowing me to be part of this journey.
Absolutely. So for everyone listening, Cassandra’s far more experienced in the area of how people work than Jordan or myself. So we are very glad to have her on the podcast today. And so I think it’d be great for people to just hear a little bit about your story. So if you don’t mind, maybe just share a little how you got into people work, maybe how you ended up here at Fringe.
Yeah, I’ll start at the very beginning. So I was born on a Tuesday afternoon. No, I’ll go a little further than that. But yeah, my name is Cassandra Rose. I’ve been in the HR space for nearly two decades, which I can’t believe, I don’t think anyone goes to kindergarten and says, I want to be a human resource professional when I grow up. But that’s shifting a little bit, which is exciting because I think for a long time HR was this thing to just kind of be handled. It was all the awkward pieces of the business that just didn’t fit somewhere else. So they gave it to human resources. And now that people have truly understand that to have a thriving business, you really have to have people who thrive and come together as a collective. And that HR can be a North star to that.
I think that really changes the conversation. So it is great to have been part of this 20 year arc of how the HR space is evolving as well. Though I fell into HR, one of the things that I made sure I did was go back and get a master’s degree in human resources because I think it’s important to understand how the academic and the theoretical portion of it can also apply to the real life experiences. What you learn in a classroom doesn’t always translate into real life. And sometimes real life situations require frameworks to really push things forward. So I’m happy to have both of those things. I’ve also been certified, I’m saying all these things just to showcase that I really truly believe in this discipline, and I really believe in the fact that if you have enough people who come together and say, if I care about my people and I pay people to care about my people and focus on them, that actually frees up other leaders within the organization to focus on what they do best. And that’s how we all rise to the top.
Do you remember when we first met?
Perhaps, it may have been over a call, a demo? Is that right?
Yes. It was, yeah. The funny thing is, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, but when I first met you, it was on a discovery call where somehow we had gotten connected. You were at Sprinklr at the time. That’s right. There was some at least modest interest in Fringe. And I got on the call and I recall thinking to myself when we were having that conversation, if we ever get a chance to hire this woman, we should hire her. And lo and behold, here we are. You’re our Head of People here at Fringe. So serendipitous.
Amazing. If you can also hope for me that I win the lotto next week, because apparently your positive thinking works.
I hope I could do that for you. But then you’d probably leave us, so…
No, it depends on the lottery winnings.
So something you said, and I’m actually interested in your thoughts on this question, you know you mentioned that because you’ve been in people work for two decades, you’ve seen some of the changes, some of the trends going on. And so for you, what are some of the biggest things that have been changing in your line of work over the last 20 years and maybe in the last couple years especially? It feels like some of those things are really changing for the good, I think, but would love to hear what you’re seeing in people work and how that’s changing.
I think there’s a lot of cyclical trends that are appearing, and I think we just rebrand them. I got into the HR space and primarily into the financial industry, right around the time that we had a financial crisis in this country. And so it went from the heyday of banking being the big thing that everyone wanted to go work in, and a pullback of that because people saw something that they saw as a livelihood that they could have for 40 years, retire richly — just be so negatively impacted. And we’re seeing that now in the tech space where tech was the hot thing. Everyone was telling everyone, go to college, get a tech job, you’re going to be safe. It’s all on the rise. And now we’re seeing this disproportionate amount of layoffs that are happening and quiet quitting, and just seeing companies that were what unicorns and decacorns fall from grace.
And so I don’t think necessarily that there’s just bad leaders who just move from one space to another. What I think happens is that we move away from the primary responsibility of what we’re supposed to be doing at work. And what that truly means is that there’s some focus that’s lacked or sometimes bad actors, let’s be honest. But I think this gives us another opportunity to look behind the curtain and say, what about the companies that aren’t laying off? Or what about the companies that are doing it in as much as possible a very ethical way? What are they doing that’s so different that they have boomerang employees? They have people who come back. And I think that’s when you’re putting people at the center of your decision making, whether you have a bad economy or a good economy, you can still move forward and continue to grow because you’ve actually centered humanity.
Right? Yeah. Well, and that’s kind of in line with something, Jordan and I have been talking about a bunch in the episodes that we’ve had previous to this, which is this idea of human flourishing. And so what are we as companies aiming for? Is it just bottom line profits? Is it whatever our company’s about? Or do we have some kind of sense of greater purpose here? Is it something that we can do good in the world for individuals, for communities, for society as a whole? And I like to believe that that’s possible here and hopefully we’re doing our little part of that. It’s what we’re doing here at Fringe.
I definitely know that’s what we’re doing here at Fringe. At least that’s what you’re paying me for. So looking at an article, a study that came out from Deloitte that you shared with me, actually, the World Health Organization actually looks at work as a very vital part of wellbeing as a hu — just as humanity. And when we think about it, one of the main questions that we ask children are What do you want to be when you grow up?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I actually wanted to be an astronaut. I thought it would be so cool to be able to go outside of the earth and look down and do something that if you think about it, even the smartest, richest people a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago, could never even dream.
Now you can pay to do it.
Now, you can pay to do it for about 11 minutes, but you’re not totally going to outer space. But that’s a different topic for another day. Just blending science, math, art, and what does it mean to be alive to me is something interesting. And honestly, I feel like I do that every day. Being in HR and being not just in the people space, but working at a company that talks about how to help people flourish because there is art to it and there’s science behind it. Being in the wellbeing space doesn’t mean that you’re doing soft things or things that aren’t meaningful. You’re taking dollars to make sure that you’re investing in people in a way that shows up for them outside of the four walls or the Zoom walls that they’re working in. How do I make sure that parents in the workplace or people over 50 in the workplace or people who are just starting their career in the workplace, feel seen and heard and know where to go to find resources that they need to meet the needs of their lives in the seasons that they’re in.
There’s a lot of work that goes behind that. And for a long time, I think people were just throwing money at it and just putting perks in like having a ping pong table, but then they realized, hey, people actually flourished when they were able to come together, right? And humanity is about community. People flourish when they can have health insurance and know that their needs are cared for. So there’s so much more to it. And the fact that Fringe does this in a way that is, to me, revolutionary, makes me proud to work here two-fold.
That’s exciting. Well, we hope to do that and we hope to inspire others. And I think that for Jordan and myself is a big part of what’s exciting to us about this endeavor to begin with. Because when I look at my own journey, there’s really no business I have doing what I’m doing right now. I was a religious studies major in college. I have no tech background whatsoever. I mean, there’s just a bunch of time in nonprofit. And so in some ways, I look at what we’re doing here with Fringe and feel like, well, I really have no business whatsoever doing that. And Jordan has a very similar story to myself, oddly enough. And I think we feel excited and privileged and humbled in a lot of ways to be in a position where hopefully we can do this well for whomever we get to impact that as part of Fringe directly in what we do and gets to be an employee here.
But also for the companies that we interact with. We hope even through this podcast, to inspire others to maybe think differently about what they’re doing out there in the world. And I think something you said, it really resonates with me because this whole notion of work-life balance and the way people think about wellbeing even I really think needs to be dispelled to some degree. And even the fact that we talk about, and I know I’ve done this too, talk about some of these maybe more qualitative aspects of the work experiences, soft measures or soft metrics. And just even as I’ve learned more being in this space and doing what we’re doing here at Fringe, I’ve come to see and actually learn from the research I’ve delved into around human psychology even that these things that we tend to say are soft in the business area really aren’t psychologists that look at things around human psychology and even self- reported measures of happiness and so forth. They’re actually very highly scientific and quantitative. And so I think that’s relevant as we talk about this Deloitte study, for example, around wellbeing, that it’s not just an entirely subjective point of view, but I do think it’s helpful to probably think about, well, how should we be thinking about wellbeing? What’s a good framework for it? And I think this research starts to lay some of that out for us.
And I would even go as far as to say that it’s very easy to point to leadership, top line leadership and say, these people should be modeling what wellbeing looks like, or to go to HR and say, hr, you’re responsible for creating that for us. But it’s really the people managers, the everyday line managers who are either pushing forward something that supports everyone or withdrawing from their people and not really sharing that information. So one of the things that I’ve made sure to do at any organization I work for is to go, how can I empower people who lead other people? And I think that’s where the rubber meets the road, because at the end of the day, you’re not calling up your CEO to say, Hey, I don’t feel like I have work-life balance. I need you to make this better. It’s you calling your manager to say, Hey, I’m running late.
I had to take my kid to soccer practice, or I have this doctor’s appointment. They don’t do weekends. It’s that interplay where we have to go, how can I equip someone who’s a people leader to feel resourced, to feel like they are empowered, to be able to tell their people, I can, I got your back. I can support you. I can give you that flexible schedule, or I can tell you about a program that we’re rolling out, or I can reward you and recognize you. Most people leave. I know this is something that’s been said a million times. Bad managers, even if you have a great organization, if you have a bad manager, you’re going to have a bad experience. But if you can create better people leaders, you’re going to see that in your bottom line.
So I think it would be really interesting to dig into that a little bit, because sometimes I feel like maybe I’m just ignorant. Some of those things seem like common sense to me, and this is me speaking as someone coming from outside of the HR space, even coming from outside of the tech space. I haven’t run a company or been part of the leadership company prior to Fringe. And so there’s some things that we do that to me seem like, well, that’s obvious. I have children. Sometimes you’re late. Stuff happens. And you know, can’t just predict that all the time. And so I’m interested your take on why is it that there’s this gap sometimes where maybe the expectation is like, Hey, just show up and do your job. We give you a paycheck. Why do you want any more than that? I mean, I cringe when I hear people say that kind of stuff, but more commonplace than I might expect. You’re probably a little less surprised by that given some of your experience. But what is the disconnect there? Why down at the manager level where some of these things happen and people listening to this podcast, many of them lead people, what is going on at that level that’s creating maybe some of that dissonance that people don’t maybe understand or empathize with just the human experience?
I think I’ll approach it from two different places. One, the Industrial Revolution. You haven’t probably heard that word since 11th grade.
We’ve actually talked about it actually on the podcast.
That’s right. So when we think about where humanity was prior, you either were a farmer, you were just doing things to survive within a community or within an aspect. The Industrial Revolution brought forward an ability for people to make money and take that money and go do whatever they wanted to do with it without necessarily being connected to a community. And those who rose to the top, the Henry Fords of their day made it so that way work was just that. It was this thing that you came to do. It wasn’t meant to be fun. It was hard. It was difficult. So when you create an assembly line and teach different aspects of people to just do one function, what you actually take away from them is innovation, is creativity, is the ability to actually grow. And I think even though we’re a hundred years plus forward in time, what’s actually happening is that mentality still exists, that you’re replaceable. And people feel that in their job descriptions. They feel that in the lack of growth. When I talk to my manager, I’m like, what’s next for me? And you give me a blank stare. It makes me feel like you haven’t thought past that. For me, if we’re asking people to stay with us for four or five years, but we only have plans that exist for six to 12 months, there is the disconnect right there. And that’s not necessarily a people problem, that’s a structural problem. We need to rethink how we think about work.
How do we start to do that? Because I, I’ll admit for myself, when I was leading a team here at Fringe that had quite a number of people a part of it, I’m not sure I always did as good of a job as maybe I could have around some of those things. And I’m just wondering for people who are listening that might be thinking like, Hey, how do I do that better? How do I help people that I lead or influence maybe feel like they have a path forward or not just treat it as kind of a cog in the wheel, so to speak? How could people be thinking about that maybe more proactively?
Yeah well, three things I would always recommend. One, the simplest and least expensive way to do it is just ask them what they want. We may assume, Hey, hey, go do this learning development thing. Go get this certification. Oh, have you explored this program? But some people like the job that they want and maybe they just want to be able to do that for two to three years, keep it stable for themselves. Or maybe you have someone who’s like, I really like what I’m doing, but I’d love to be able to learn a little bit more about this. Give them a stretch project. Or maybe they’d want to do something completely outside of the realm of the work that you’re doing, but they want to have the permission to be able to do the side hustle. And if your company allows for those things, encourage them to do that.
We disconnect these things and say that you must be one person at work and then everything else, you can be outside of my parameters. A manager, a really good people leader will say, how can I incorporate the desires of what you want to become and help you achieve those things? And that makes you a better employee just psychologically. So that would be step one. Step two would be to explore the programs available. I think we limit ourselves by thinking that we always have to be the solution to someone’s problem. And that’s what systems are created for. So if there are other resources within the organization, refer, advocate, sponsor someone and say, Hey, I see this person as an emerging leader, or I want them to be able to stay here at this company. What can we do for them to develop them in their career in something else and make sure that they’re getting connected to that resource. And then the last thing I would say is take a chance on people. If there is an internal mobility opportunity, and maybe they don’t have the skillset, but they have the drive, go to bat for them and say, I think you should go try something else. Worst case scenario doesn’t work. We can bring you back on the team and make sure that’s a true statement, but really take the time to see how I can develop someone within an organization before exiting is a part of that strategy.
Well, and I think what’s interesting about that, and I genuinely don’t know that I know the answer to this, but it feels like one of the tensions that can arise when you’re in a position of leadership is, well, if we start giving people opportunities over here, what does that mean for the needs of the business, whether perceived or real? We’ve hired people to do certain roles or fulfill certain responsibilities. And so if we start maybe creating some of that flexibility, how do we manage the tension then that comes with, Hey, we’re trying to give people opportunities to grow, try new things with — the business has certain things that need to take place or certain roles that need to be executed in a certain way. I think that’s a challenge.
Oh, absolutely. And I think there should be governance to it. It shouldn’t just be ad hoc or — No one has a certain strategy to it, but what I would say is that any company that’s growing always has an opportunity for somebody. You’re either giving it to the people who are currently within the organization or you’re giving it to people who are new to the organization, but nothing that’s living, which an organization is, doesn’t come with new challenges presented, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s a political cycle going on, whether it’s just your own organization going through its maturity phases, you’re always going to find opportunities. So I can’t imagine there’s ever a time that you’re so stagnant that that’s not a possibility.
Yeah, no, I think that’s true. And I think it’s probably then incumbent upon managers of people then to be having these conversations proactively. And it’s probably helpful to have frameworks for understanding like, Hey, how do I have conversations with my people that can help guide them towards places that give them life, help them feel more connected to the work that they’re doing. So one of the things to me, I don’t know that I always did this well, but I would always ask people, what are you most excited about? So to the degree that you can do work that you’re good at and that you feel excited by and have most of your day filled with those kinds of things, then your work experience is going to be more positive. And so trying to orient maybe projects that employees are part of towards that kind of work, seemingly is more critical. But I think what’s interesting then is managers then need to feel that they have that autonomy,
And latitude to be able to maybe give people work that’s a little bit outside of a really formulaic kind of job description. Because I think what you’re describing is a vision of work that helps people feel more connected, helps people grow, feel more alive in what they’re doing, but also requires a level of, Hey, we don’t, maybe the outcome every single time isn’t going to be exactly what we expected. Or maybe sometimes this project that we assign somebody to, it’s just going to kind of bomb out, but we shouldn’t have that individual feeling that their job is jeopardized because that particular project maybe didn’t go well because we’re willing to experiment, we’re willing to let people fail. And I think that’s probably an important part of the experiences, letting people know that hey, failure is part of growth, not just for the individual, but also for the organization to learn in giving people these opportunities to grow. It’s not always going to go exactly the way that we think.
Oh, I think that’s a beautiful segue into that second part. So we’re thinking about one, just the structure of work and rethinking it, the second communication. Because I think exactly to your point around A) managers having the authority, do we empower our people leaders to actually lead, or do we just give them a bunch of random information and say, best of luck if your team is successful, that was us and you. But if your team fail, it was completely you. And leaving them up to try in that way.
A hundred percent. And so when I think about what you saying, giving people appropriate space to fail, a lot of times people just are terrified to fail because some of it is schooling. If you just got an F, there was really no coming back from that. But some of it has also been, again, this idea of if you separate work. So that way I only work on one thing. If I do feel like that one thing, there is no space for me to go and try something else. And one of the ways that I live my personal life is to focus more on what I’m good at and just manage the things I’m bad at. And sometimes we try to get people to be better at the bad things and -
Improve your weaknesses
And improve your weaknesses. But what you should do is be sharpening your strengths.
So be really good at what you’re good at.
You should be great at what you’re good at, and let’s fix the other things. Let’s tweak it. So that is really where you get people to understand their assets. And sometimes I think organizations may be worried that what if we get someone so good that they leave us? And one of the things that we have to realize is there is no 40 year career anymore.
People are going to leave us, but if they leave you and they champion you after, they can actually sometimes do even more for you than when they were a current employee. And that’s why you’re seeing boomerang employees continue to grow as a huge population of people who come back to an employer because they need to go out, get the experience that they need to get, but they want to bring it back because you’ve created such a place that makes them desire to come back and do great work.
So that brings up an idea that I’m kind of interested in. I’m curious what you think of it. And then I don’t have fully formed opinions on it yet necessarily, but we’re a software company here at Fringe. And so as a software as a service,SaaS company, as people call it, there’s certain metrics that you think about. And so lifetime customer value is one of them. And I came across a post, I think it was on Medium recently, where they talked about lifetime employee value. And so obviously when you first hire an employee, there’s a cost, you got to bring them on cost of hiring, et cetera, et cetera. And so really it’s a sunk cost until a certain level where an employee reaches productivity. And so I think the tension that I’ll acknowledge is always, well, people aren’t numbers, people aren’t just money. And I fully agree with that point of view, but there’s something I think to what you just said, which is, well, people aren’t going to be here 40 years, but in order for it to work economically for businesses is like, well, you need people to be at an organization long enough that they reach a level of productivity or lifetime employee value that is at least greater than what it costs to bring them on.
And so I’m curious what you think about that as a paradigm, maybe how we think about the time that employees spend at an organization.
Yeah. First of all, I want to bring that here. Because I love that concept because it’s not just about the dollars and cents, but it’s also helping people to understand their own value of what they bring to the workplace. When you come in, can you bring in the value of what your salary is representing? Not because I’m just trying to get you to a hard and fast number, but it helps you to better negotiate for yourself to understand your true value from an economic standpoint of financial stability. And that’s what we’re all seeking. Work should be fun, but work also gives us the ability to seek out things that maybe for myself growing up in an environment where both of my parents were blue collar workers, I didn’t need for anything, but we didn’t necessarily have a lot of excess. And so for me, their wish was that I would go to college and be able to have more options in career, have more options in financial stability that they were seeking by coming to this country.
So I think we need to get very comfortable with having employees talk about money, what it means to them, and how that shows up in their wellbeing and in their happiness as well. So when people understand their value, they understand, wait. As an organization, not only can I bring value, but how can I help others bring value? How can I be a leader among leaders? Or if I’m an individual contributor, how can I still have influence? Now we’re all thinking in a business mindset, now we all better understand how we influence that bottom line. And sometimes I think that disconnect is that tension that has been uncomfortable for so many decades.
Well, and I may be guilty of being idealistic around these things, but I like to believe that there can be kind of a win-win-win scenario where what’s good for the individual is also good for the organization. And so I think that’s what I like about this notion of a lifetime employee value. It recognizes the fact that, well, somebody probably won’t be here forever. That’s just not the way the world works anymore, that people’s growth opportunities. And I see that even here at Fringe, it’s like the needs that we have at Fringe, there’s probably a ceiling for some individuals in terms of what they’re capable of or what they want to do. And so if they move on from here, it’s probably very reasonable and practical for their own career advancement that they may need to take another step beyond what Fringe is able to provide them right now in terms of career opportunity. But at the same time, thinking about it in such a way that you know what the individual’s contributing, what the business needs, like those things aren’t totally at odds with one another. And I think that’s a more positive vision, I hope, where the needs of the business, the needs of the individual can be matched up in such a way that everyone’s kind of winning in that scenario.
I’ll even boilerplate it. I saw a meme once where someone asks in an interview, why are you interviewing for this job? And the person answered, well, aren’t you hiring? The employee employer relationship has always been symbiotic. It’s always been something that you need fulfilled and I can fulfill that need. And if you just make it transactional, that’s when it feels like I can just leave. I can just walk away. But if I can add value to your life, not just financially, but who you are as a person, and you can add that value through your creativity, through your innovation, and sometimes just through your diligence in getting your job done and doing a good job, how could that not be a win-win situation?
I mean, what you said there is something we talk about a lot here at Fringe and I think is really probably at the crux of the matter, which is work simply a transaction or is there something potentially more meaningful? And I think something we’ve been trying to put forth in the conversations that we’ve been having on this podcast is that work is a more significant part of our lives, even just as human beings, than a simple transaction of time for money. And I can appreciate how people maybe have gotten there. And I have a cynic in me that can understand that, hey, institutions as they grow don’t always have the best interests of individual human beings in mind, but in a world that we’re trying to aim for human flourishing, which again is something that we talk about a lot here, I like to think that there’s an opportunity where the relationship between an employer and employee isn’t simply transactional.
I think that happens day in and day out. I think the good companies that do it do it so well that their people just never leave. So maybe they’re not telling other interviewers.
Are you saying there are 40 year careers?
I’ve done anniversary parties, I’ve seen people work someplace for 50 years. But I think you could also have an amazing career arc in three. And I’m very thankful to the Millennial generation, which I may or may not be part of, and even Gen Z who are solidifying that that could be an example of a great career. And if you are having these three year arcs, but the company really is being propelled forward by the innovation and creativity of having new people come in with fresh ideas all the time. And we leverage that instead of thinking of it as a disadvantage. Think about where we’ll be as a society, as a whole human race in 50 years.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we really didn’t get to a whole lot of that Deloitte study that I know we want to talk about. Yep. But this is a really good stopping place for the conversation today. And so thank you, Cassandra, for joining us. Cassandra’s actually going to be joining us again for the next episode. And so everyone stay tuned and we will actually dig in a little bit more into that study because I think there’s some really interesting data and some topics that stem from the conversation that we had today. And so thank you everyone for joining us on How People Work.
Thanks for having me on.