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Expert Interview: Danny Hadas

March 05 2020 / by Mari Ryan

In this Expert Interview, AdvancingWellness CEO Mari Ryan and Danny Hadas of Emovation Project discuss employee experience. Danny Hadas

Mari Ryan: Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Series. I'm Mari Ryan. I'm the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness. It is my pleasure to welcome you today to this expert interview where we explore topics that impact employee wellbeing. My guest today is Danny Hadas.

Danny is a best-selling business author, an employee experience innovator, and advisor to the world’s most iconic brands on the topic of people. Before age 30, Danny was leading $10 million experience transformation projects and his work has impacted millions of people across 500+ companies worldwide, including Disney, BMW, and AT&T.

As the founder of the Emovation Project, Danny shares the transformative power of intentionally crafting experiences through the context of emotions. When he is not just setting around inspiring new “emovators,” Danny can usually be found in Orlando, Florida where he lives with his incredible partner. Together they participate in and lead growth and development programs aimed to cause tremendous breakthroughs in people’s lives. Their partnership serves to redefine what is possible for the world.

Danny, welcome. I’m so excited to have you here today.

Danny Hadas: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Mari Ryan: Fabulous. Today we are going to explore the topic of employee experience. This is such a hot topic today and in my opinion it is certainly justifiably so. Employers today are recognizing the importance of creating a positive and fulfilling workplace for their people, so that employees will be happy, productive, and engaged – all essential aspects in order to succeed in business.

So, let’s start the conversation, Danny, if we can, by defining employee experience. Some of our audience may not be familiar with that term.

Danny Hadas: Sure, thanks for that question. The employee experience, as I see it, is the way people feel about their overall participation at work. When I say participation, that is really synonymous with the experience they have. I’m not going to define employee experience with the word experience, when I think about the employee experience at the Emovation Project, the way we define employee experience is in four stages; the first is the explorer phase. People will go on to a company’s website, that’s where they apply for a job, that’s where they have interviews, and ultimately that phase ends when either interest is terminated, or a job is extended, an offer is extended. That’s the first phase of the employee experience, that’s explorer.

Then the employee will start the process of getting familiar with the company once they’ve been hired. So, that’s going to be onboarding, orientation, their first 90 days, whatever you might look at it that way. It’s really them getting familiar. What’s my job? What’s my role? Who are my peers? Who were my colleagues? Who is my manager, what is the role really going to be like? What are the policies and procedures? That’s the familiarize stage.

From there, into operate. This is where they perform their daily role each and every day. They might participate in growth and development and what it might be.

Lastly, any time after that they start to evaluate. Is this the right role for me? Is this company right for me? Is this the right manager for me? Is there something different I should be pursuing inside this company or outside? That cycle repeats over and over. You think about your experience working, and people listening to you about their experience working, you’ll see that it always follows those four steps; exploring an opportunity, getting familiar with that new role or that new job, operating in that role, and then evaluating whether or not it’s still right for you. It goes over and over and over.

Mari Ryan: I like that, that’s a nice structure. I like the way you think about that. I’m curious, Danny, how was it that you came to start a company that is based on employee experience?

Danny Hadas: That is a great question. I’ve been consulting with the world’s biggest brands since 2008, and then more recently in the last five years and exclusively focused on customer experience. So there I was, leading this $10 million transformation project for one of the world’s most prestigious automotive brands in the world, and we were co-creating these inspiring customer experiences. The energy in the room is electric, people are buzzing about, and then someone stops and says I’m not doing this. I said, excuse me? He said, I’m not doing this! I said, well, what’s going on? He said, look, this is really great and all, but my management doesn’t treat me half as well as they are asking me to treat these customers, so I’m not doing this and I have a feeling that other people won’t do it either because they are going to feel the way that I do. Right there, it clicked.

Companies are in a customer experience craze, but you won’t get the experience you want delivered to your customers unless you are caring for your employees first and that’s when the vision for the Emovation Project was born. That’s when I decided what I would be doing with my life.

Mari Ryan: That’s fabulous, I love that story. It’s so interesting because we see this all the time. We are asking employees to give their customers a valuable and impressionable experience as the customer, but yet the employees are getting beaten up and are in toxic workplaces, and are being abused or disabused, or whatever they may be doing. We can’t expect – and I know, as we both know, the whole employee experience has come out of this world of customer experience, and customer experience journeys, and all of those kinds of things.

Danny Hadas: That's the latest incarnation of caring for employees, certainly born out of customer experience. If you look around the topic of employee morale and satisfaction, you can find work dating back to the 1920s on that. Employee experience is this new incarnation of how to deal with your employees. I absolutely agree; it comes from the most recent craze for customer experience.

Mari Ryan: Based on your experience with some of these large projects and the clients that you’re working with now, is there an approach that you suggest in the workplace that addresses employee experience and how to make that a positive element for employees?

Danny Hadas: Absolutely, and that’s what the whole company of the Emovation Project is founded on, a four-step methodology that I call “Emovation,” which is innovation powered by emotions. The core of that methodology is just asking, answering, acting on two questions; how do you want your employees to feel emotionally and what actions will you take to have them feel that way? If you really look, if I go back to what happened at this automotive brand, the employee shared “I don’t feel cared for. I don’t feel supported, therefore I’m not going to deliver the performance my manager or my leadership team wants.” What would happen if the employee did feel cared for and supported and recognized and valued? The conversation would probably shift to “oh my goodness, oh my goodness, all I want to do is give everything I can to our mission, our vision, because I’m getting what I want in return.

Those questions, how do I want my people to feel, what will I do to have them feel that way, they create a context by which leadership teams and companies can actually deal with and manage their people, as opposed to just throwing spaghetti on the wall, giving them ping-pong tables, catering lunches, and having happy hours. You can actually say, all right, I want my people to feel valued. Great, will how do I make them feel valued? Or, I want them to feel inspired. What led you to have them feel inspired? I want them to be acknowledged. What will I do to have them feel acknowledged? And so on, and so forth. Those emotions create this very rich context from which you can come from to create all the actions you would take to manage and be with your people to inspire them to perform in a way that you would want for your business.

That’s the methodology in a nutshell, but it really comes in four steps, which is first, what’s the situation in the workplace? If you don’t know where you’ve been, and my experience was a long time ago, if you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going. So, what’s the pulse of the organization today? How are people feeling today and why? And once you have that say all right, people are feeling this way. Now, here’s how I want them to feel. That establishes your foundations to the second step.

Foundation, how do I want you to feel? Once you know how you want them to feel, you include everybody to generate all the ideas you can create to have them feel that way. That’s step number three, generation.

Once you’ve got all your ideas that were created with that very rich context based on the emotions you intend, it’s time to activate those ideas and move forward. So, that’s activation. We’ve got situation, how people feel; foundation, how do I want them to feel; generation, what are all the ideas I can create to have them feel that way; and activation, who are the teams, people, resources, tools I need to put in place to set my plan in motion. Those are the four steps.

Mari Ryan: I love it, I love the logic. To me, it certainly feels very logical. I think it would be easy for people to grasp. I really appreciate that.

Danny Hadas: Sure, my pleasure to share.

Mari Ryan: I’m curious, from your perspective and the work that you’ve been doing, how do you see that employee experience impacts employee wellbeing?

Danny Hadas: It is such a great question, and such a pertinent question. When people aren’t feeling supported or inspired or connected to their colleagues or their leadership, and they’re not feeling empowered. Well, from my experience, stress levels spike. When stress levels spike, people’s lives can take a turn for the worst. I’ve had my own personal experience with this. That culminated in two different hospital visits, one where I thought I was having a heart attack. I did not feel supported, I did not feel cared for, and ultimately I didn’t feel valued.

I’m not the only person who has experienced this. All across the country you hear of people dealing with stress, unprecedented stress levels, and feeling they are stuck in a role where they feel like they’ve got to just put out product, put out results, day in and day out for 80 hours a week.

Employee experience, having people feel a certain way is going to have a tremendous impact on their wellbeing, and the stronger the experience, I would expect that the healthier the people on the organizational culture are. To me, it’s a direct one-to-one correlation. The stronger the experience, it’s more likely those leaders are taking into account the health and wellbeing of their people.

At the end of the day, if you’re not feeling up to the task of getting your work done, what kind of performance are you going to be providing? If people don’t care about your wellbeing, that is to say they’re not having you feel cared for, they’re not having you feel respected and valued, what kind of product can you expect for your people?

Mari Ryan: It does seem like such a natural connection, that if people aren’t happy they’re not going to be productive, they are going to be disengaged, they’re going to leave. It seems like it’s just such a natural connection.

Danny Hadas: Think about it, think about all the things we take home from work with us. Conversations we’ve had with people, whether they’ve been arguments or recognition, anything like that. Just that example, if I’ve spent all day arguing with my boss or my manager or my colleagues, how is that going to affect my ability to perform outside the workplace, in my relationships, with my spouse, with my friends, with my family? I might be irritated, I might be agitated. Whereas in a workplace where I feel supported and I’m able to be my full self and bring my full self to that environment and I’m feeling respected and cared for, appreciated, and supported, when I leave the workplace, I can actually put that aside and share it with people in a positive manner and it has an influence on everything I do after work.

The employee experience I see has an effect on every aspect of someone’s life. It can manifest itself in physical ailments like I personally experienced with what seemed to be some sort of heart attack or heart episode, or a phantom foot injury like I talked about. I think there is a one-to-one relationship and a direct correlation for sure.

Mari Ryan: The last thing that we would expect would happen in the workplace is that people go home so depleted that they can’t be functional for their families.

Danny Hadas: Right, right.

Mari Ryan: It’s just not right.

Danny Hadas: It’s not right. How many people do go home feeling so frustrated at work that they can’t even focus on what’s going on at hom?. Yeah, definitely.

Mari Ryan: What can employers do to improve employee experience?

Danny Hadas: I think the number one place to start, really, is to get a handle on the situation in the workplace. How are people feeling today? You’ve got all these measurements out there, engagement, ENPS, and whatnot, and they’re all great, except they always require additional investigation. You get an ENPS score, you get an engagement score, and you’ve got to do additional digging to see what’s behind those scores.

The first thing is if you don’t already know the situation in your workplace, that’s where to start. You can start with simply just asking people, having 30-minute meetings with everyone every 30 days, find out what’s your experience like here. What’s your most favorite thing about working here? What’s your least favorite thing about working here? What do you really care about in your role? What kind of support do you wish you had? Those kinds of questions will really give people the ability to understand what kinds of things they can pursue to improve the workplace for the better. I always say the number one thing you can do is get a handle on the situation in the workplace. If you don’t know how people are feeling, how can you know how to move?

Mari Ryan: Exactly. Your approach is very similar to what we do with strategy engagements with our clients. We go in and the biggest piece of the work is the data collection of both qualitative and quantitative data to understand and basically create a snapshot of what the environment and the workplace looks like today, so that we can then help them map where they need to make changes to get there in the future.

Danny Hadas: Absolutely.

Mari Ryan: That’s great. Danny, if our audience wants to learn more about you and that great work that you’re doing, where can they find you?

Danny Hadas: Yeah, especially if you’re going to get started situation, I would highly recommend you go to EmovationProject.com/brilliant and you will be able to download a free resource that tells you all the different ways you can assess the situation in your workplace and I actually give you the questions we use with a shipping client, a freight client, which they had 100% participation and from that survey, those questions, they generated 92 employee experience initiatives just from those questions alone. So, go to EmovationProject.com/brilliant and download that free resource. That’s what I would recommend.

Mari Ryan: That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing that additional resource. That’s really helpful. It’s really been a pleasure chatting with you today about this important topic and I’m very excited to hear more about the progress you’re making with your clients and the great work you’re doing. Thanks, Danny.

Danny Hadas: Oh, thank you so much, Mari. I appreciate being here.

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Topics: Worksite Wellness, Wellbeing, worksite wellbeing, workplace wellbeing, workplace culture, wellness, employee experience, employee wellness, worksite well-being, hr, employee engagement, employee well-being, psychologically safe workplace

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.