Beezy – Employee Collaboration in a Post-COVID World with Michael Hicks

Mike Hicks Chief Marketing Officer at Beezy
Mike Hicks Chief Marketing Officer at Beezy

Today on the RecruitingDaily Podcast, we have Mike HicksChief Marketing Officer at Beezy here to talk about collaboration, especially employee collaboration, in a post COVID world.

So we’re going to imagine a world where COVID is not dominating everything in our lives and we’re going to talk a little bit about collaboration best practices.

Listening time: 27 minutes


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William 0:34
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Mike Hicks on from Beezy and we’re gonna be talking about collaboration, especially employee collaboration in a post COVID world.

So we’re going to imagine a world where COVID is not dominating everything in our lives and we’re going to talk a little bit about collaboration.

But before we kind of jump into the topic, Mike would you do us a favor, do the audience a favor, and both introduce yourself and introduce Beezy?

Mike 1:03
Yeah, for sure. And thanks for having me on the show again. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. The last one that we had, I think it was several months ago, was great, so ready to dive in on this. Yeah, I’ll start by giving a quick overview of Beezy. Beezy is an intelligent digital workplace built from Microsoft 365. So what does that mean? Well, you can think of Beezy as an advanced modern intranet.

We make the SharePoint experience better and more usable. And we pulled together all of these pieces of the Microsoft 365 portfolio to improve how organizations communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, simplify processes, and workflows, and really drive that employee engagement experience.

And, you know, you can kind of say, Okay, well, “Create an intranet? I have an intranet, it sucks, nobody uses it.” Well, you know, Beezy’s that beautiful UI designed for engagement, and really creates that destination for employees to come together, and they love to use it. And it’s powered by a back end that takes all the complexity out of Microsoft 365 so it just focuses on the user and what they’re trying to get accomplished. And, you know, the philosophy behind our product design, you know, really works.

We serve some of the largest, most complex organizations in the world including Hilty, Glencore, Finning, and even some of the top global banks. So that’s a bit about Beezy, and ready to dive into the conversation.

William 2:29
So with Microsoft, are we also thinking about all the different products Office365, Dynamics, and Yammer, Skype, Teams like all of their product suite?

Mike 2:42
Yeah. And actually, so really good question. And so I know we’re talking about collaboration in a post COVID world, or I guess, you can even think of it as you know, a living with COVID world. And your audience is interested in things like employee engagement, and recruiting, retention, and, you know, empowering employees to do their best work.

So maybe, you know, as part of the answer to that question, if you don’t mind, I’ll just take a quick minute to set the scene because I think it’s a really interesting topic and so much has happened in the past few years. And I think what’s happening is people that were in roles that maybe never found themselves being responsible or being consulted when it comes to technology decisions for the organization are now finding themselves in that spot. So maybe if it’s okay, I can just can take you on a two minute detour here.

William 3:34
Love that. Love that.

Mike 3:35
Awesome. So I think you know, leading up to the pandemic, there were some important trends that largely went unnoticed, but they set the stage for this technology dynamic that we’re seeing to get today. And the first one coming back to your question is Office 365. We can now consider the broader Microsoft 365 offering, which includes all the office components or Azure Cloud experience, and some of those additional services that now become available for but for the sake of familiarity, we can call it Office 365. Because that’s what we all know.

And Microsoft has done a big push to migrate their customers to the cloud. And there’s a ton of benefits that came along with this, like real-time file collaboration, simplified sharing, anywhere access to all of your information on any device, easier to roll out features and functionality. And from Microsoft, when they made this change, they moved to a subscription license model. So instead of the old, one-time perpetual license, there’s this huge incentive now for them to continue to invest and to develop the capabilities and leverage new opportunities for AI and some of the other stuff that we’re seeing.

So as the world slowly moves to the office cloud, we also had the Slack in the team world heat up, right. You had different philosophy, philosophies around how those products came into the organization. Slack was more organic through the dev and engineering side and Teams came through the IT centralized deployment side. But what’s happened is in the background, some of these other office products became more important. And SharePoint is actually one of those ones that became more important in the team’s ecosystem.

And a perfect example of this is if you share a file in teams, you’re actually using SharePoint in the background, although you don’t use it. And then you say, Okay, well, why is that important? Like, we don’t like SharePoint, SharePoint has a poor user experience. And in the past, that was always the biggest driver to a lot of these standalone intranet products, because organizations said, Well, I need an intranet, right? And I don’t like SharePoint, so I’m going to need something else.

ut now with Microsoft making these investments in SharePoint becomes more central to the Microsoft portfolio, and we’re all hooked on this idea of Teams, like Teams adoption has just exploded in the last year, right? You start to ask yourself the question of, Okay, well, I’m going to standardize on Microsoft. And I need a, you know, a digital workplace to bring all this together, but is Microsoft good enough, right? And that’s when you say, yes, Microsoft from the standpoint of centralizing my, you know, personal productivity portfolio and access all these other things.

But I still need this digital workplace to bring it all together and create that fully branded destination experience for our employees. So this is where you have this big shift. And when this happens, it changes the collaboration dynamic inside of an organization, because it eliminates many of the issues of the old way of working, which was adding additional disparate tools upon tools, which just created data silos and made it difficult to find information. But now, what happened is organizations are just in the process of figuring out, how do I consolidate? How do I simplify because employee experiences become so important? And that’s been tied back to productivity.

So that in a quick kind of roundabout way is this history in the last three years say that will all kind of came to a head during the pandemic as to what we’re seeing now?

William 7:28
Yeah, and the wonderful part is the pandemic sped all this stuff up. Like we were going to get there and Microsoft with the different products for sure. They were going to get there. It might have taken a little bit longer, but like Teams today, versus maybe Teams in December of 19, they were lightyears apart from one another.

Mike 7:48
Exactly, exactly. And you’re right like this whole the remote work. And it forced us into struggling our way through it, instead of what you’re seeing now is this more planned change management because we have the time now to try.

William 8:07
So let’s talk collaboration. So we used to be in an office, we’d sit next to each other, we’d go into a conference room, we collaborate. There’s a wipe-off board. Yeah, somebody might have a laptop or I might be taking notes. Oh, we just kind of stood in front of each other and talked and brainstormed and you know, wrote things down and we went off, made project plans, and went and did our bit.

So okay, well, March, March 13 of 2020, well, all that’s gone. Can’t do that anymore. How do we – how did we get into collaboration in the pandemic? So what happened that just kind of threw us? And then because we really want to talk about is okay, after all of this stuff. When we go back to some type of hybrid model? What do we need to be thinking about collaboration in the future? How do we need to be rethinking collaboration?

Mike 9:00
Yeah, it’s a good question. You’re right, like that hybrid model is the thing that is on most people’s mind, because we’re a year into this now. And we’ve seen several, you know, mid to large-sized organizations announced that they’re going to enable remote work flexibility and even allow permanent remote work for some employees. And in the smaller organizations. It’s even more than that, right? So it brings the large change management and cultural shifts in how we work and the big questions that we’re asking – you’re right because you can no longer huddle up the same way that we used to.

You know, organizations now are looking at supporting collaboration, but also right at the beginning, how do we welcome and onboard new employees? How do we celebrate you know, our successes and milestones, or even celebrate life events like birthdays? It’s, it’s one of those parts where you say, Okay, well, it’s not connected to collaboration, but it’s part of the employee experience. So it’s an important question. And that needs to get answered. And then you start looking at some of the more productivity-focused types of views around how do we work across additional time zones.

Because this is happening more and more now, right, as people leave the city, and, you know, how do we bring together different cultures? Because again, now you’re in this mindset of hire the best not hire the closest geographically to you. And then, you know, other questions around, you know, kickoff meetings for projects and checkpoints. But you know, what, we have all these new questions, we still have all these old questions on how do I find information in people with expertise in order to do my job or solve a problem? What tool do I use to communicate, project updates or share important news?

How do we ensure that employees are engaged and happy? And, you know, the one thing that every organization saw is when this all hit access to the internet skyrocketed. And that’s exactly the right behavior.

Because in times of uncertainty, you only want people look for a place to get information and a source of truth. But unfortunately, as so many people realize, organizations had invested the time or the resources into maintaining that intranet experience. So the whole thing was a mess. And, you know, all of those questions posed around, how do you know do certain things around welcome employees or celebrate or doing things like that? All of that stuff.

Now, what we’re seeing is, it’s becoming more and more centralized, in the digital workplace, as people integrate with the appropriate tools and systems, they’re trying to get away from this hopping mentality of, I go there to do that. And I go there to do that. If we want you to say, No, you come here, and you can facilitate all of those different things directly from here.

William 11:57
So I hate the phrase “best practices.” I loathe the concept of best practices, only from the standpoint of its best practices for that particular company at that moment, in the context of what that team was doing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So it’s generic, best practices are generic, and thus not really actionable, specific, best practices are just that they’re contextualized. So without going too far down that rabbit hole, I know, people are gonna wonder, how do they know that they’re doing it right? Or how do they know that they’re achieving when they’re doing collaboration the right way?

Mike 12:37
One of the first things to do is ask. Right, and I think you’re seeing organizations have taken, call them pulse surveys, or point time measurements, right to create that benchmark. And many organizations did that early on, like a year ago, they would have done that. So now they can measure improvement in sentiment, in feelings of productivity, and all that kind of stuff.

And based on that they’re able to prioritize the types of fixes that they want to do. And I think the organizations that are doing it the best are the ones that are looking at this from the employee experience angle. And they’re including things like productivity, happiness, you know, engagement, and watching for things like, employee turnover is part of they’ve created this big umbrella around it. The other thing that they’re looking at, you know, you talk about best practices, is trying to get the conversations in a place that everyone can see them. It’s this concept of working out loud.

And, you know, in the old days, you had a whiteboard, even if you were sitting in a cubicle, right, most people had some sort of whiteboard, and people walking by could see Oh, I you know, so as prioritize this work or whatever, we have to find a way to bring that experience into this new, you know, geographically dispersed digital world. And the other thing I think we’ll see, too, is more regional personalization. And, you know, by that it’s this idea of all information isn’t appropriate for all people at the same time.

And you can, you know, structure and tier the communications so that it’s immediate and important versus, you know, maybe it comes as a daily summary at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, just so people are in the loop. And the idea too that I think is really, really interesting, especially when you think about this working out loud concept is in our personal social media lives we’re so used to just scrolling, right? Scroll fast, past some things and we scroll slow past other things and we dive in deeper, and you’ll see that make its way more into our professional world as the next evolution, I think of the engaged enterprise.

William 15:08
So this might be controversial. I hope that it’s not. But I love that you started with ask, which is essentially the underpinnings of consent. You just asked like, hey, what you know, what do you think? give me feedback? You know, let’s figure out this together. So as the world focuses more, thank God, on diversity, inclusion, and, and diversity, inclusion, belonging, equity, and equality, more specifically, how does that in your mind?

How does our focus and have all of those things on the front end bringing in more diversity more inclusion? How does that impact collaboration? How do you see that, again, making us better collaborators, maybe stressing our organizations in different ways that we haven’t thought of like, what’s the impact of doing great D&I on what we have conceptualized as a future of collaboration?

Mike 16:04
Yeah, I think it comes back down to the transparency and the culture within the organization. Because, you know, if you think of that concept of working out loud, and we are open to ideas, and everybody has a voice, and everybody, you know, feels valid, then you really can embrace, you know, all of the different ideas and perspectives that people have. And the good thing for, you know, the organizations that we’re working with, a lot of them are already massively geographically dispersed anyways. Right. So they’ve had timezone challenges for since their inception, they’ve had, you know, language barriers to get over and things like that.

So they’re well on their way towards working this way, I think the challenge is going to be for a lot of these smaller organizations that take up this idea of hire the best not just hire the people that are closest to us. But it really starts with enforcing a transparent culture, clear understanding of mission vision and the objectives. And as well, for managers, then it’s the idea of managing performance based on the output, not based on the time spent. And I think that’s another big thing that, especially the younger managers are going to have to work through and learn through during this shift is, when everyone was in the office, you kind of felt good, because you could see your team, and they seemed like they were busy.

So that must be good. When you can’t see them, right? Now, what do you do? And how do you ensure that the output is the thing that you’re measuring, and not just looking for this green, you know, dot that says the person is available and hoping that they’re working. So I think that’s another big big shift too. But for me, I really, really love this concept of the working out loud mentality. And I think for some of the older generations, that’s probably going to be a difficult shift for them to go through. Because we’re not used to that, right, we’re used to our value to the organization is the knowledge that we possess, and we choose when we share it, versus someone saying the value to the organization is my willingness to collaborate openly on ideas and share my opinions.

William 18:39
So I’m going to want to ask you now to kill off based on what you just said, to kill off a couple of bad practices or poor private practices that we’ve gotten ourselves into through to the last few generations or last 20 or 30 years, as it relates to collaboration and just kill them off. Like what are three things that you would just say, okay, going forward, post-COVID, no more of dot, dot dot, What are those things for you?

Mike 19:10
The first one that comes to mind is no more files stored on your computer hard drive, and no more files attached to an email. Those things are the biggest productivity sucks because they create, you know, conflicts and versioning. They restrict the ability for people to come together. I think that to me is probably the biggest thing. You know, some of the other ones, as I look at it is very clear instructions for when we use different communication tools.

So when do we use email versus when do we use Slack or Teams versus when do we post something to say a blog on our intranet or a digital workplace? That too becomes a big issue because of the data silos. And the inconsistency is and then also, the idea of “my priority is your priority.” And I think in this notification culture that we got in, we haven’t set the clear boundaries around, or provided people the freedom to turn off those notifications.

So that I think is another one that we got into an issue, especially in the early days of instant messaging. And then when these multi-channel chat tools came up, the notification was the priority. But that’s not necessarily the case.

William 20:43
Love that. Now, second question. I’m going to hand you a magic wand. I’m gonna take it back, by the way, but I’m going to hand you a magic wand. And if you could change anything about the way that we do call with to do collaboration, and it can’t be the files can’t be the reverse of what you just said, what would it be? Can you can change anything about collaboration that you want to? And just magically, it’s done the next day? What would you change?

Mike 21:12
I mean, that is a very difficult question. I think the one thing that I would love to introduce is, you know, jump ahead to how bots and AI will really transform how we work. So I think that is the one thing that I would love to improve, because I think it’s such an unmet opportunity for organizations. This idea of just telling, just like you do with Alexa, or Siri, getting those capabilities inside your personal work life, that will be the killer experience, and remove so much frustration.

William 22:02
I love that. I love that it’s augmentation, right? So we can only get better to such a level. But if we can bring in the robots, to then kind of either take some of the lower layer, lower, maybe low-value things away from us, and help us and assist us, there’ll be a be peripheral, and then assist us in ways that we, foreseen or unforeseen, they can help us in ways. I love that. That’s a great wand. I’m taking it back now, by the way.

Mike 22:29
It’s true. And you know, when you think about, we’re still in the early days of what this AI exposure, right, like, but today, even today, you know, you take the Beezy bot, for example, you just tell it you want a vacation. And it just says okay, you mean these days these days? Yep. Okay. And then it goes and, you know, secures the approval and does all this other stuff, or also just learns an answer.

If somebody asks a question, and then that question gets marked as Yes, this is the correct answer, the next time somebody comes back and asked a similar question, it now knows the answer. And for you, and now you might be thinking, Okay, like, is that really a big deal? Think about in a company of 100,000 employees? That is a big deal, right? The amount of time wasted in moss. So I love where we’re going with some of this stuff. It’s really interesting.

William 23:22
I love it. Okay, so less like, one last question. Do you believe we should assess for collaboration or I guess before I even ask that, is there, is there a way to assess for collaboration for folks that when they’re coming into this organization, do you think we could or should assess? And then I want to get into the training and development part of of collaboration as well. So on the front end, should we. If there is an assessment out there behavioral or personality or otherwise, do you think we should assess for those that are better at collaboration than not?

Mike 24:00
I think so. And I think it’s even something that in college and university, we should be engraining the right practices. Because, you know, to your question is, if we don’t do that sort of workflow assessment and fit, we’re setting ourselves up for failure if that person is a mismatch. And now that, you know, we’re primarily remote and the onboarding experience is different, and your manager interaction experience is different. If the new person coming in here has the wrong expectations or is just wired in such a way that it’s going to cause continual friction with the culture and how you work and in how you expect things to be done then it’s just a bad fit.

William 24:50
Yeah, yeah. Okay, so let’s do the flip side of that. How do we train, again, we take somebody in raw they either understand collaboration or don’t, doesn’t matter, we now want to teach them our way of collaboration. Again, I really liked your idea of Okay, this is an email, this is a Slack, you know, or this is a Team’s message. This is something you know, this is, you know, this is a text, this is how you would kind of diagram those things. How do we train people to be better collaborators post-COVID?

Mike 25:26
You’re, you’re asking the million-dollar question.

William 25:29
I know, right? Want me to give you the wand back again? Do you need the wand?

Mike 25:34
How do you train a sales rep to document everything in Like –

William 25:38
You put a gun to their head. I know the I actually do know the answer to that. You put a gun, literally put a gun to their head, and they’ll put everything in Salesforce.

Mike 25:45
With all the commission. But yeah, it kind of comes down to exactly that scenario of governance and enforcement, or the practice will never change, especially, you’re talking about thousands and thousands of people working together. How like, even something as simple as just, if you’re posting a file, follow the naming convention, because the search experience is that much better. Like, if you don’t establish these rules, and if they’re not enforced by all layers of the organization, it’ll never change.

William 26:18
Yeah, I was gonna add to that it starts at the top. If you – if your C suite, your board, your C suite, your high-level managers, if they’re great at collaboration and can set the stage, then, then most people will fall in love.

Mike 26:35
Exactly. And then the output is these moments of delight and happiness. Right, which, you know, that’s what’s going to drive productivity. And that’s what’s going to drive engagement and excitement.

William 26:47
All right, on our way out, the last thing, just anything else that we should have, if we didn’t cover it already, about employee collaboration and post COVID world? Anything that we’d like to talk about?

Mike 26:59
I think the biggest thing is, you know, every organization has an intranet. Start your thinking there. Around what do we want this to be versus what is it today, right? Look for those, those glowing examples, and you can really build some powerful things around that.

William 27:16
I love it. Brother, it flew by, I knew it would. It always does. Thank you so much for your time and your brains. And I just appreciate it. And also thanks to the RecruitingDaily audience for listening to another podcast. Mike, we’ll take you, on the next topic. Thank you so much, brother.

Mike 27:36
Thank you.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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