Turning managers into coaches. The best manager is a leader and the best leader is a coach. Organizations in the future of the workplace will need to have middle management that’s strong at coaching and developing people that are in their direct span of impact. We see this in the franchising community with brands who work every day to empower their franchisees and frontline managers with tools, strategy and the autonomy to coach and develop the people around them.
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Caucci.
Sam Caucci is the CEO and Founder of 1Huddle, a workforce tech company that upskills, trains, and motivates employees through science-backed, quick-burst mobile games.
Clients include the Madison Square Garden, Monumental Sports, UEFA, Loews Hotels and the U.S. Air Force. Put simply, 1Huddle is making training more fun, effective, and accessible for the entire workforce.
Sam served as a member of the Workforce Innovation and Economic Policy Committees for the Biden-Harris Presidential Campaign. He is a board member for the City of Newark’s Workforce Development Board. Sam is a frequent guest on CNBC, CNN, Fox Business and Bloomberg.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.
My first real “on the books” job came out of pure necessity. I was playing college football at the University of Alabama, moved everything I owned to Tuscaloosa, and had just started practicing when a family tragedy sent me home.
My plans changed. I needed to find a job. I enrolled at a local college and started applying all over, without success. This was until one day my former High School football coach introduced me to a new startup that focused on training professional athletes. They were early stage and had a great product — they worked with dozens of professional athletes and were in the early stages of building something big. At the same time they needed a salesperson and I jumped at an opportunity.
It was 100% commission, but gave me the opportunity to learn. Think about it — no base salary, just commission. It was scary. It was risky. And, it turned out to be one of the best career decisions I ever made. The opportunity to work with an early stage company and roll my sleeves up to learn by doing was a tremendous education that to this day I reflect on.
Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
I pay attention. It depends on the worker and I know each of my people personally and I really encourage my people to bring their entire selves to work. So wellness, as I define it, is really what I see every day when I come in, whether or not they’re excited to come to work is something I can feel. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Metrics can get in the way of what I can see with my own eyes. I’m lucky in the send that, while I make it a point to know and have a relationship with each of my people, we’re also still a small enough company that that’s feasible.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
Of course we look at performance and OKRs, but for us at 1Huddle, the voluntary engagement– and we’re lucky that we have a platform that tracks that — is really the most key. If people are happy to come to events that are optional, if they’re playing the games on our platform, that’s what confirms for me that the success we’re seeing as a company can’t be isolated from the wellness of our people.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
Do everything you can. You can’t measure what you don’t do. But I also think that sometimes an overemphasis on measuring can impede the actual implementation of a lot of these programs.
How do I measure it? I feel it. I talk to my people. Less than 24% of workers in the United States think their manager cares about them according to Gallup. That’s measurement enough. If people are doing what they say, it’s not working. Corporate wellness has been around for a while.
A lot of employers want to say they value these things, but regardless of how much they spend, they make decisions that feed a culture that’s prohibitive when it comes to employees actually being able to take advantage of those programs. A study from Glassdoor found that U.S. workers on average have taken just 54% of their allotted vacation time– how much of that directly results from people not feeling comfortable within their organization to take the time off they’ve earned?
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
We make a point to talk about it, early and often. Culture is the air you breathe and it’s evident to all those who interview with us, and who we hire, that ours is a culture that prioritizes the employee experience.
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
That workers’ sense of security is what drives innovation. Workers need to be challenged, but first they need an environment that allows to rise to the occasion– only them can you have a workforce that nimble, adaptive, and ready for whatever the future of work brings.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
A lot of the skills we associate with leaders have to be developed over time–they don’t come naturally, and I don’t expect them to. So It’s important to me that, beyond our seminars and workshops, we have 1Huddle. Our platform uses quick burst mobile games that leaders can play to reinforce what they’ve learned, not just about wellness, but about how to coach and support their teams.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team, or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
Make the time. Actually put it on your calendar. Be committed and hold yourself accountable. Better yet, make it an event that you invite your whole team to.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Companies will make decisions about what their technology stack looks like today. One company we work with today is Dog Haus. They went from training workers, the old-fashioned way with manuals and videos, to using 1Huddle as a mobile solution to reach every single one of their workers in any language they may speak or know. One trend will be organizations moving away from legacy software.
- Turning managers into coaches. The best manager is a leader and the best leader is a coach. Organizations in the future of the workplace will need to have middle management that’s strong at coaching and developing people that are in their direct span of impact. We see this in the franchising community with brands who work every day to empower their franchisees and frontline managers with tools, strategy and the autonomy to coach and develop the people around them.
- You’re going to see the wages of frontline, low wage workers rise. The competition for talent continues to heat up. Organizations are going to understand that we have record low employee engagement figures — some of it has to do with where you work, but some of it has to do with compensation. You will see organizations start to increase compensation and wages for workers on the frontline.
- Organizations will start to make coaching or training and development an important part of their business model. To date training, learning and development have been a sub-bullet under human resources as re-skilling and continuous learning. This will become critical to every business model. We’re now seeing brands stand up with separate budgets and lines of communication and separate technology to only focus on cross-training, continuous learning, and upskilling.
- We’re going to see the cost of college go down. I think that’s really important for the future of work. The value of education stays high, but the price tag has unfortunately risen in a way that has discriminated against our most vulnerable workers. It’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when universities will be challenged. Public sector universities are being held to outcomes in order to make decisions on their federal funding levels. I think that you’re going to start to see a tighter market around colleges to help consumers make better decisions about where they invest for their education.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
That you are doing an interview about it! People are talking about it. It’s been important for so long, but it’s finally becoming a priority that business leaders want to talk about. It is the most important thing. We have to keep it front and center, your people matter the most, and so should their health.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.