How to Deal With COVID-19 and Your Workforce with Tiffany Ablola

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How to Deal With COVID-19 and Your Workforce with Tiffany Ablola

In this episode, we spoke with Tiffany Ablola.

Tiffany (Tran) Ablola is a California attorney and EOS Implementer. Her mission is to help company leadership teams build healthy work environments and empower them with the tools to scale. After finding her own focus as a management consultant, she helps others achieve the same.

With Tiffany’s guidance, clients have been able to capitalize on their personal strengths and take back their time. She also enjoys working with social change companies and donating her time to helping non-profit leadership teams. When not working, Tiffany’s favorite pastimes include reading at the beach, cooking, scuba diving and traveling.

Tune in to learn some of Tiffany’s knowledge on how to best manage employees, through the best times and the toughest.

Get more information or work with Tiffany and master operations and leadership

Transcription

Fletcher Wimbush:

Welcome to the Hire Talents Podcast, strategic hiring and recruiting advice for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. Today I’ve got Tiffany Ablola, she’s an EOS Implementer and that’s an Entrepreneurs Operating System Implementer. For those of you out there who aren’t familiar with the program, it’s awesome. Also I was a guest at Tiffany’s wedding, it was amazing. So we’re really happy to have her on and we’re looking forward to hearing her perspective on how to deal with this Covid-19 crisis in your workforce and all of the different questions that are around that. But I guess before we get started, I know that you were an in house legal consultant specializing more or less on the employment side of things before becoming an EOS Implementer. Tell me a little bit about your journey and what you did in that role and how that led you to your current role.

Tiffany Ablola:

Thank you for the warm welcome Fletcher. So I have practiced as a California Attorney for about eight to nine years now generally in the realm of employment law. And a lot of that practice consisted of consulting with organizations and public agencies, almost as their outside general counsel in many unionized areas and also general employment matters and education law issues. So my journey from legal practice into management training in EOS world, actually was very natural for me. It seems there’d be very different areas on first client but what I really, really found a lot of joy in when I was working with clients in the legal field is, training their executives. Their board members and management on how to communicate better and how to proactively address problems before they get to the point of litigation. And how to… When things do take a turn for the worst, how to mitigate, what happens after that.

Tiffany Ablola:

And then I realized that’s where I wanted to spend my time, versus reactively addressing problems when it had already gotten to the point of no return. So the transition into EOS, which is the entrepreneurial operating system, felt very natural to me. And what that consists of is really, working with the director level or partners of an organization. That’s about 10 to 200 employees large, and helping them talk to each other more cohesively. Actually, trust the conversations they’re having and guide them through a system where they can empower themselves to have those conversations on a consistent basis without the need for someone to be guiding every single conversation. So a long story short is that, I enjoy giving people the tools to be independent and successfully hold their own meetings and hone in on goals and focus, eventually with less of my involvement.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Wow. Wow. So yeah, I love it. So you being in the legal side of things you are reactively dealing with a lot of the outcomes of poor communication, maybe poor strategy. And I could imagine that being a bit frustrating, although probably 50 gainfully employed but… So moving to EOS, is this more proactive approach to run organizations better, to improve communication and at least related to the employment side help you maybe prevent some of the employment related claims or litigation’s or lawsuits that might come up from maybe, the lack of effective communication and structure then?

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah, exactly Fletcher. And as someone who is deeply informed in the HR realm you know exactly how much it helps when, the leaders of an organization really take the time to think about who are we bringing on and how well they’ll fit into the environment and the culture that a company has created. And actually taking concrete steps to analyze that information versus just saying it. Doing it just for the motions because those words are buzzwords. Now often company culture, our values are we… I’m doing all those things. Then oftentimes people don’t really know what it means on a day to day basis during the hiring process, the evaluation process. And unfortunately now thinking about what we want people to remember of the organization while it’s going through a crisis time.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. You know what? That is always on the top of my mind and hear those buzzwords, company culture and things. It’s interesting how often people talk about it but when you dig a little deeper, I always get concerned when they’re unable to communicate what that is clearly and is definitely on the hiring side of things in our assessment business or in our recruitment practice. We’re constantly trying to understand what that is to help them achieve their goal, and we see that a lot. It’s kind of a fuzzy, squishy thing that has not been clearly defined out there. So yeah, helping people figure that out and communicate it more clearly, succinctly and then really living those values and living up to that culture, in this particular time is going to be crucial, like you said. So, yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up and that’s something that I think many of us are going to have to think about carefully. Are we doing to meet our core values in our business when crisis strikes or do those all go out the window, right?

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah. And I totally understand it’s a lot easier said than done and it’s just that if you try to at least keep it as a consideration, it’ll help. And it’ll also help in making your team members feel like they still matter, and that their employee… And that the company still cares about what they said they cared about, at least in part.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Yeah. And I have something we’re really going to dig into here later in the conversation is, the fallout of all of this and what feelings that are going to be had on both sides, both the employer and the employee side. And then what the risks and liabilities are going to be caused because of that that fall out. And how some really easy things that people can do to mitigate those and just improve the outcome both from the optics, the corporate social responsibility in this the legal and risk side of it. And so that brings us, I think to the next question to get this conversation started here is, as a management trainer you’re probably getting a lot of feedback from clients and people in your realm or questions from people related to some of the struggles and the challenges that they’re having. What are two or three big challenges that you keep seeing come up, what people are asking about?

Tiffany Ablola:

There’s so many right now, it just depends on which industry, the specific problems that particular company’s going through. But some of the themes I’ve seen are, how to prioritize things on a daily basis. When it seems everything keeps getting turned upside down every time you check the news or what new regulations or laws are coming out. And so it’s hard to stay on top of everything that’s going on from an HR perspective. Management as far as, what goals are as company trying to shift to, to make payroll. Right now and managing a remote workforce while people are social distancing at home and trying to work when their kids are at home. So I would say that the main big things that have come up are, how to probably prioritize the crazy urgent items that are coming up, in light of the crisis.

Tiffany Ablola:

What they already had planned to move forward with as far as the goals that were preplanned. How to remain in contact, quality and effective contact with employees. And to team members who are not face to face anymore, how to communicate information in a transparent manner to keep their team members informed and letting people go if needed and in a graceful manner that aligns with what their company stands for. So those are some of the major ones right now.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah, for sure. And so I think, one of the things I was really interested in discussing with you because being an EOS implementer… Fairly familiar but you’re the expert and so I was eager to discuss with you how do you create a strategic plan? Obviously, address the fact that, that might change every day, because of the in light of what’s going on I mean. I’m guessing you really have to create a crisis plan, but then it means that it’s probably on a hyper short cycle as opposed to your normal plans like, annual, quarterly, weekly. I mean, it’s probably changing drastically. So how do you get a plan in place, keep it together and fluid enough so that you can help deal with some of these issues?

Tiffany Ablola:

You made a great point about having to be flexible, right? And be able to change your plan quickly. So I think that’s the key of it. Sometimes the Q three or next year goals need to be put on hold and some teams just need to be okay with that for now in order to deal with the major issues that are for the best of your company this week and next week to stay alive and to do what’s best for the company overall. And it comes down to being flexible for one, having clear objectives before we get everyone in a meeting and being honest about what’s going on. And that’s a core component of what I help clients with. If people aren’t being transparent with how they feel things are going, is not going to help anybody if you keep it inside. Essentially-

Fletcher Wimbush:

So lack of confrontation. Unwilling to confront

Tiffany Ablola:

Right. Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational in the traditional aspect of people getting angry at each other and yelling. But you have to be able to not take things personally and to accept that someone may have a differing opinion of what is happening and be able to move on. So I would say the other thing to try to stay away from is, try to keep the decision only to the people who are necessary to make those decisions rather than doing a… We don’t need to get 100% of everyone to agree with this major decision unless… It’s very situational.

Tiffany Ablola:

So I think one of the things that buzz teams down especially, in a crisis is like, “Let’s get everyone on the phone and let’s have everyone agree on an action step.” But sometimes the problem is there’s people who don’t need to be in that meeting or that call to decide. And it really is in lane of only a handful of people who have been entrusted to make that decision to present to maybe a larger group. So just keeping it narrow and as focused as possible and who should be making the decision and to be able to trust your team with making the decision that they’ve been assigned to do and that’s what their job is.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. So a big part of, unfortunately of this shifting strategies for a lot of companies is, they’re looking at layoffs or furloughs or dramatic reductions or changes in their workforces. Maybe walk through a little mock, three hard steps that you should take in terms of planning to take one of these actions and some things that should be considered in that process.

Tiffany Ablola:

That’s a great question. And if I was to say several high level steps that I would recommend. And this depends on where each company is that and what their needs are. The first suggestion would be to look at your overall, maybe an organizational chart or maybe an accountability chart. And start and see who… As in which roles or which department you’re considering. Narrow down who exactly is going to be affected by the potential furlough or layoff. So that you can hone in on that particular potential plan. And then I would go through and make sure you consult all your respectives, your HR department to see if processes and things have been in place leading up to before you’re planning to announce the furlough or a layoff. It’s always good practice to check in with the people who have their ears to the ground and that know what’s happening on a day to day basis. Because there may or may not be something going on that you’re unaware of.

Tiffany Ablola:

So you just want to see if there’s any surprises, before you launch a plan. And in the same vein, connect with your legal counsel to see if there’s something that particularly affects your company. Depends on your company size, your industry, maybe you have some unionized employees. Things like that or potential litigation that’s in the works. So again, it’s just trying to inform yourself of any complications or obstacles before you move forward by connecting with your team and if you need more resources to figure out what those resources would be for instance. And that would be another major step is saying, “Okay, well if we want to go forward with this, what resources do we have right now? What additional resources might we need?”

Tiffany Ablola:

For instance, what would you like to provide as far as benefits to people who will be effected by your plan, with what’s offered now, are you planning to offer anything additional? Do you need to consult with any experts on this? Someone like your firm, Fletcher or specialized outplacement services specifically. So it would be laying out the whole path and seeing who is connected, what resources need to be added or brought into the conversation. And then potentially looking at the message flow or what we like to call as, cascading messages. Who would need to know what at what time in order to make this all happen.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. So your executive team need too as they begin to create this strategy and the plan for executing potentially a furlough or a layoff of a significant number of folks. Then don’t forget to include your key advisors because they… Like you’ve mentioned may have wheels in motion already or may have insights that are going to affect that strategy or plan. So those are going to be people like your HR consultants or internal HR people. That could be your employment law attorney or your business attorney, your CPA or like you said, a union or anybody else that you might think could have some significant insights there to the situation. And then other resources like you mentioned, outplacement services could be a great resource to help you figure out a plan post, dispersing the workforce and things that you could do.

Fletcher Wimbush:

One of the things that’s interesting and we were doing some homework about this before our call, Tiffany and I were… And Tiffany, obviously coming with this looking at it a little bit through a legal lens and from a executive coach in strategic coach lens. You had pulled up some really interesting statistics. Did you want to share those with us in terms of the… I guess maybe better context is the amount of risk that’s involved with doing this the wrong way, right?

Tiffany Ablola:

Right. And the statistics are continually changing but the general idea is that employment litigation is a very high and real risk in California. It is much higher than the national average for issues like wrongful termination or discrimination and things like that. So that’s why it’s so crucial to connect with your key partners and the people in the house who know what’s going on with your team members. So that you know offhand if someone has… If there is something going on with a particular employee that may put you more at risk. It’s just to have all the information and it’s in California, I think it is multiple times the national average for the risk of being subject to unemployment related lawsuit. Such as being subject to a complaint being filed at the fair employment and housing organization or federally that would be the EEOC Complaint. And these are initiated on an administrative level before it gets to lawsuits for the most part. So it really just depends on you having as much information as possible before you make moves.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. I pulled this report up from Hiscox Insurance which is major insurance provider and they seem to be doing an annual study here. And the latest one we could pull up, short notice was 2016, 10.5%. Each us company has a 10.5% chance of having an employment charge filed against them. In cases like California, Nevada, New Mexico, it’s almost 50% higher. So doing it the wrong way obviously and not having a solid plan in place and a good communication strategy, and maybe missing some of the core values and dropping some of that continuity maybe you had, that can definitely increase those risks. Or anything you can do to reduce them by working with these different partners that we talked about are things that, at least personally to find are very, important.

Tiffany Ablola:

Exactly, exactly. And I think that particular report said, California was an additional, was it plus 40% above the national average for risks?

Fletcher Wimbush:

46%.

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah, which is extremely high. So, and it was also studied during the last recession that, claims of employment discrimination tend to rise during recessions. And so that’s just another thing to keep in mind, that it’s important to coordinate your efforts and try to do things on a consistent basis and have a process of appease in a similar manner to your entire department or workforce versus making it up as you go. Which is understandably hard but that’s one of the best practices. Just have your process in a row before you start something like this.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. We’ve seen obviously some sudden layoffs with especially folks in the hospitality, travel, health and fitness, right. And obviously they didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for these things. I’ve also seen a lot of companies layoff and then re hire with the new cares act coming into place. And this whole situation, I mean I think still people are super confused and rightfully so and even us as experts we’re chasing down this information and trying to get it together and out to everybody. That’s some examples of where these [inaudible 00:24:34] plans go sideways as obviously. It’s quite difficult to keep track of all these things. It’s tough, definitely advise folks to just take a breath in, before they take these actions and try to think through them and strategize them as much as possible, so-

Tiffany Ablola:

Exactly. And it’ll have a big impact in how your team perceives your brand and your management style for a long time to come. Because I’ve heard stories of smaller to medium size businesses where they aren’t communicating with employees at all. And I know it’s hard right now but try to do in a way that is graceful and in a caring manner because-

Fletcher Wimbush:

Compassionate.

Tiffany Ablola:

Yes, compassion goes a long way even if you can’t give information at the time at least convey something to your employees. Because a lot of people are very scared and they will remember how they’re treated and whenever this does end and if you’re looking to rehire some of your team members back, whether it be in the near future or the long term, they’ll remember how they were treated. So at the end of the day it comes down to that.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Compassionate and graceful way of doing it and communication and also I mean, even if you don’t have the opportunity or you’re not going to be able to hire them back. Ultimately the goal, and at least from my perspective is we want to see everybody get back to work. And so helping create a path or a plan that’s not just in the businesses interests. Obviously we have to keep our businesses alive. We have to keep them healthy but if you’re too one sided thinking about your own interests, you don’t think about the other parties, that’s where people get upset, right? So if there’s anything you can do to assist them to get back to work or to transition it softly and compassionately as possible, really helps mitigate those feelings that fester, that then turn into the lawsuits.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Maybe if someone’s on the fence of between filing a claim and not, right? This could be a big deal breaker. And also if they’re getting back to work and getting their lives back together faster, then obviously they’re going to be more consumed with that process than they are worrying about suing their previous employer, right? What I’m terrified about is seeing companies who make it through this only to be brought down by impending litigation, it makes me sick to think what might come in six months or 12 months or 24 months from now, right?

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah. It’s a very real concern. Like you said, Because the statute of limitations is there and it’s definitely longer than six months on things like this. So it’s a real consideration and it starts with just taking the steps to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Yeah. Yeah. Well Tiffany, it’s been awesome having you. I think we’ve covered this subject in quite a bit of detail. I know Tiffany would be happy to chat with anybody at any time on coming up with a strategy and moving forward. Especially in a time like this where the strategies are shifting all the time. Having an EOS Implementer or a coach to help guide that process or to teach you how to implement that process and master it so that you can do it on your own. I know she would be more than happy to chat and have a conversation about that. So a couple of things before we sign off. Just real quick, just three things that you could do tomorrow to deal with the chaos in a more structured or more same manner.

Tiffany Ablola:

Great question. So three things you can do when you’re thinking about this coming workday that you have or this coming week. It may be overwhelming. I would suggest one, checking in if you’re sitting there, you’re an entrepreneur or you’re part of the directors or leadership team in an organization. Check in and see how your colleagues are doing and really take the time to hear if they are okay or not. Because it is mental health, is going to affect how people are right now so much because, this is a very stressful time one, and make sure you are okay as well. So take care of yourself, do what you need to do to be in a space where you can make good business decisions.

Tiffany Ablola:

That would be my first test. Take care of yourself, make sure your colleagues are okay or if they’re not and how to get them the resources. And two, if you see that this is something that you may not have coming up in the next day or so, or if it’s something you’ve already addressed, try to see what the potential obstacles are. Who you have involved and if there’s someone else you need to involve, your key players in your organization or if you have resources outside the organization who you need to talk to, to get that plan in place so that you can be prepared for the worst but hope that this goes better than expected to at least mitigate some of you know what’s coming.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Okay. Awesome. Awesome. So just make sure everybody is mentally and emotionally healthy and doing those check-ins with your key executive and everybody. Ultimately that should trickle down, right? And, don’t forget about yourself in that process. And then begin to really think carefully about what obstacles and which people on your team, both internally and externally you can use to help overcome those. So, yeah. I think those are your two things if you’re listening to this and you’re facing a tough week or day ahead of you. Just think about those two things first and take those two steps. I think there’s a little bite sized pieces that we can all use and I know the one about, even keeping myself healthy, that’s a big one. And I’ve been trying to work on and do better at myself because I’ve been running myself to the bone here recently. Thank you for the reminder.

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah. I mean, it’s a problem. And the funny thing is when you’re stuck at home, some people just work more because there’s nothing else or where to go until its done here.

Fletcher Wimbush:

That’s me.

Tiffany Ablola:

Yeah. So we’ve got to be careful not to burn ourselves out. And also along the same vein, make sure to ask your colleagues and your team members what they need in order to make that plan or that strategic plan happen, that maybe they don’t have right now. Maybe they need information, maybe they need access to a resource or maybe they just don’t know how to make it happen. And just make sure you make it clear that, okay, if they don’t know, it’s okay. You will figure out a way to get the information together because one of the common breakdowns in communication when you’re not around each other, it’s you just need to hone in and make sure people really aren’t just saying things, to get it said and move on because things… Especially now need to get done quickly.

Fletcher Wimbush:

The feeling. The feeling is often missing and sometimes not addressed. Okay. Awesome. So how do people get in touch with you Tiffany?

Tiffany Ablola:

They can email me at tiffany@ficusin.com or give me a call. (714) 260-8854 or go to the website, findfocus.com.

Fletcher Wimbush:

Awesome. Well, Tiffany, it was amazing talking to you today. I think there’s a ton of good information that you were able to provide for everybody and I really hope it’s helpful for everybody listening. And everybody stay safe and healthy and take care of yourselves here in this time so that we can make good decisions. And keep our families and our businesses healthy. So thank you Tiffany for joining us.

Tiffany Ablola:

Absolutely. Thank you Fletcher. Take care everyone.

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