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Q&A: Asking the Expert Anything

Wisetail | 6 min read

Throughout our 2023 second quarter webinar series “Putting the Human Back in HR”, HR-industry expert Dr. Casey Cox shared invaluable insights on a range of topics, including:

  • dispelling myths surrounding employee retention
  • exploring the evolving landscape of employee programs, and
  • discussing the benefits of effective retention strategies. 

He emphasized the importance of building trust among employees, cultivating a reputation for retaining top talent, and aligning yourself with your team members to create a major impact. In the final installment of this popular series, we opened the floor and gave our audience the opportunity to ask Dr. Casey anything. Here’s what he had to say:


Q: How can employers seek and incorporate employee feedback to improve satisfaction? 

A: The first thing that comes to mind is do you have a feedback friendly culture? For me I think the assumption is made very often that of course we do! We have an open door policy at work! We have avenues for feedback, we have 360 feedback for staff, for our managers… but is it a truly psychologically safe environment, where without fear of retribution or retaliation, you can have a staff member disagree with a point that you have? Can they challenge the status quo? That’s a big marker of if you are actively seeking to incorporate employee feedback and if that’s being measured. 

Having regular feedback channels is important as well, surveys, suggestion boxes, feedback sessions, listening sessions from leadership. I can’t stress how important that is, with the caveat that leadership then has to do something and act on the feedback promptly. 

Also, engaging in two way communication. Brené Brown said it best with “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”

Q: How do you hold leaders and managers accountable for promoting a positive culture, from employee to manager, to manager to manager?

A: Going back to Brené Brown, “Trust is built in the small moments” is really important. You’re not going to get trust in a positive culture through a policy or procedure, you’re going to build it through the day-to-day interactions with your staff, with your team, with a company.

Employee to manager, having really clearly defined expectations is important for managers regarding their role in fostering that positive culture. Open door policies, and that’s you know open door communication is something that’s in every HR handbook every employee handbook, but it goes back to, do you truly mean it? 

From manager to manager, clear is kind. If you’re seeing something that goes against the direction and goal of company culture and you choose not to say it, it’s the equivalent of gossiping in my mind. If we are all sitting on the same side of the table, looking at employee experience together, rather than becoming defensive or thinking they’re trying to tear us down. 

Q: If you’re facing an entire team of detractors, what steps can leadership take to address cultural erosion and reestablish a positive work environment. 

A: Detractors are those that think that the company is either not great and for some reason they’re staying there, or they think it’s okay, but not a good company to work for.

In this situation, first and foremost, call me! If you’re a leader and you think your entire team are detractors, or if that’s something that you’re seeing in your data, we have a bigger problem. If that‘s a perception that’s not backed by data, if your staff seem to be negative, you think it’s a downer time to be in this department and organization, you need to start at the top. That starts with listening and understanding. It’s not going to be a pleasant conversation. But just hear that airing of grievances that you need to hear your staff’s voice. Communicating transparently is really important. Understanding where they’re coming from is just as important as your staff understanding where you’re coming from. 

Q: How do you ensure company policies are fair and equitable?

A: Keeping to the thread of Putting Human Back in HR, pay attention to proximity bias. I want to talk about how being close in terms of physical proximity or emotional connection provides influence, which will destabilize any of the objective standards that you have. I think being cognizant of proximity bias, which is interesting now that so many of us work remotely, but say I do play golf with them, or we’ve got kids the same age so we hang out, those are aspects that could tip the scales towards preferential treatment. You need to be hyper-cognizant of those opportunities for a lack of fair and equitable practice in your organization so number one – providing bias training. 

Do your staff have the training to be effective leaders, identify bias, especially if they have influence in the organization. I am one to always promote standard criteria and practices to maintain fair and equitable balance in the workplace. 

Q: How can organizations promote transparency without overwhelming employees without overwhelming them with information?

A: For me, it is important to promote an open, transparent and trusting environment, with the understanding of where the senior leadership is at. Helping our staff understand where key resources are going, it’s a big hurdle to support leadership to understand why having any degree of openness and transparency wouldn’t hurt their organization. You have the opportunity to own the narrative of why you’re putting resources where. If done correctly, increased transparency can be a driver of retention. Determine what transparency means to you as well, be a resource, and ask the tough questions. 


Q: What are some practical ways employers can actively involve employees in the decision making process?

A: Any time a decision impacts an employee or group of employees, we need to involve them in the process. This allows them to have insight into the process, and the decision making. So this is a mindset shift. Do I want the hourly staff members to have a say in that? If not, we’ve got more work to do on the backend. How do we effectively communicate where the decision making power lies, and why it’s so imperative to gather their insight, what red flags do they see, etc. You need to ask yourself, do you want their feedback? Am I ready to listen and ready to do something with the feedback?

We are so incredibly grateful to Dr. Casey Cox for generously sharing his valuable expertise in the psychology of the workplace. His insights on employee retention, program effectiveness, and building strong organizational cultures have illuminated crucial aspects of HR practices. By nurturing the well-being and engagement of our employees, we lay the foundation for thriving workplaces and empowered teams.

Watch Ask Me [The Expert] Anything here, or check out the whole series below!