For the last 20-plus years, email has become the standard form of communication for reaching out to clients. Ask any marketer for the last 10 years in particular, and they’ll say one of the top things a business should focus on is building their (email) list.
Snail mail is just too slow, and this increasingly-fast paced world makes a classic phone call unrealistic – what, are you going to call each person individually on your list? Or worse, are you going to have an automated bot interrupt their day with a phone call that is devoid of actual communication?
But now, email too is reaching a ceiling. Is your email going to their SPAM folder? Is it going to their “junk” email address that they use to sign up for all the mailing lists? Is it getting lost between an advertisement from their favorite clothing store and a digital copy of their phone bill?
I don’t think it’s time for us to throw away email entirely – especially not when it comes to communicating information to your warm audience – but if you’re really trying to maintain contact with your existing customers, you might want to try one of these increasingly popular options.
Everyone in the B2B world knows about Slack by now – and for a good reason. Slack’s no-nonsense interface is perfect for communicating with all your clients at once, or sending messages to people in specific groups by sorting them into different Channels. If you love the flexibility of list segmentation, you’ll appreciate the functionality of Slack.
I personally like using Slack as my general hub for connecting with my mastermind clients. We have different Channels for asking questions, for sharing wins, and for my team to make announcements that everyone needs to see. I’ve also created private Channels for each member to have direct access to me and my team, for scheduling calls, and sharing documents that don’t need to be shared with the whole group.
Even better? Slack can be used three ways: In your browser, in a Desktop app, or with a mobile app.
This one has its pros and cons, but it’s definitely a contender worth discussing! While most people choose to use Facebook Groups as a strategy for growing a free community of warm leads – you could just as easily use a Facebook Group as the home of your paid community.
On the plus side, a Facebook Group offers you a lot of different ways to communicate with the people inside your community. Live videos, photos, GIFs, polls, posts – your options are nearly limitless. And with Facebook giving you the ability to create modules and lessons inside Groups, you could easily sell and host an entire group program or online course inside a Facebook Group (saving you hundreds, even thousands, a year in course hosting fees using a system like Teachable or Thinkific).
Of course, the obvious downside of this option is that you have to have a Facebook account in order to join a Group, and your clients may not have a Facebook account. (Give “people leaving Facebook” a quick search – there’s a lot of movement away from the platform right now.)
Telegram and Voxer
These two apps are nearly identical in terms of functionality: They’re both messenger apps that give you the ability to send and receive voice messages in real time, like a walkie-talkie. You can use these like a classic one-to-one personal message, or you can create a group message that includes everyone on one thread.
While Voxer is more basic in its very orange UI, Telegram is going to be the prime choice for creatives and millennials who value personalization and expression.
I personally like using these kinds of apps for communicating with my top-level clients, who get more intimate, personal access to me. They love getting to hear my “off the cuff” thoughts on different things that they’re encountering in their business without having to wait for a formal group call or one-on-one session, and I love getting to share my insights in a quick, efficient way that can also benefit the other clients in this group who may have the same struggles or questions.
Instagram Close Friends
This one might be a surprising choice, but it’s growing in popularity as an alternative to Facebook Groups. You won’t be able to host a course for free on Instagram like you can with a Facebook Group, but you can still create a fun, exclusive place for your customers to stay in the loop.
I’ve seen this strategy work best for digital creators, in particular, such as podcasters or YouTubers. Using something like Patreon to collect membership fees from your audience, you can have each user fill out a quick Google form to get their Instagram handle upon signing up to get access to your exclusive content. After that, you’ll go to your Instagram Settings, tap on “Close Friends,” and from there you can hit the + to add new accounts to your Close Friends list. You don’t even have to follow an account to add them to your list!
This is a fun way to take something you’re already doing (creating content) for an audience who is already there consuming it, and monetizing it!
Ethical, confident, wise – these are among the many attributes of great leaders, and these attributes usually stem from that leader’s experiences and personal style. But there is one thing all great leaders have in common: At some point in their career, someone believed in them.
Simple as it may seem, this realization can inspire new leadership tactics in great leaders and help them turn their attention to developing their teams.
Here are three tips on how to use your own expertise to build the next generation of leaders for your organization.
1. Present opportunities to your people
When you think about your own trajectory to a position of leadership, you likely got there because you had experiences that others didn’t. It is so important to help others develop themselves, and to start you must give them opportunities to do so.
Opportunities can be presented in a number of different ways. One tactic I use is to share examples of my own experiences – experiences that might inspire new ideas or help someone develop an understanding of the similarities between situations that can help them move forward.
Guiding The UPS Store throughout a global pandemic will be a story I tell for years to come. Our network of franchise owners remained open as essential to serve their communities, a feat that inspires resilience and optimism that can carry you through those more challenging times. I also draw on my experience as a former officer in the Marine Corps to help explain tough conditions and how planning, preparation, and the ability to adapt can help you forge ahead.
Another way to nurture development is to give employees stretch projects beyond their normal day-to-day roles. Let them take the driver’s seat so that they can develop the wisdom and confidence needed to make good judgment calls.
You’ll have to find what feels right and works for your company. Keep in mind that without these opportunities, you could be leaving your employees flat-footed to do their jobs and rise as leaders, both of which impact your organization overall.
2. Recognize your own hesitancies
Know that it’s normal to feel some level of stress when handing over the reins to your team. Whether you are worried about being accountable for someone else, giving up control or becoming a micromanager, you must overcome those feelings to give employees the opportunity to expand and evolve.
Start by identifying the sources of any hesitancy you might have, and then look for solutions to overcome it. If accountability is something you are worried about, is there a way to find shared responsibility within a project? Start by clearly outlining the project goals and then ask your employees to check in with you at specific milestones. By keeping you informed and sharing regular updates, you can have confidence that the project is moving forward and in the right direction while allowing employees to develop their own leadership skills, generate new ideas and build upon new experiences.
Remember that failure is a part of the growth process, and a big proponent of helping employees develop themselves is giving them the space to learn, try, and push beyond their comfort zone. But keep playing the role of coach or adviser to help them gain the knowledge and skills to develop as leaders.
3. Extend your circle of trust
Humans are creatures of habit and that extends to leadership. Once you’ve successfully relied on members of your team to accomplish a big task or launch a new initiative, it can be tempting to go back to the same people to do it all over again. But as new projects arise, it is important to continually identify and leverage the strengths of other employees.
Ask other leaders throughout your organization to recommend people for a project. This practice helps employees gain exposure to new areas of the business, work with a different team and adapt to new team dynamics. By trusting your people to take on new roles, you help foster a culture of integrity and develop leadership skills among a broader base of people.
The best employees are adept at making sound decisions and have the ability to plan, prioritize, and solve problems. It is so important to give people the opportunity for continued professional development. Through these new opportunities, you often reveal strengths in people that you were unaware of, while at the same time, you help to scale your organization with diversity of thought and experiences that can drive your business forward.
Remember, it all started with someone believing in you. Be that person for the teams you lead.
Post-crisis periods are among history’s most productive eras. London rebuilt after the Great Fire with grand new architecture, and Europe after the worst of its plagues underwent a commercial revolution. The Marshall Plan turned enemies into allies, fomenting peace and prosperity for over half a century. Leaders also emerge from crises. Ulysses S. Grant was a washed-up soldier without prospects until war broke out, but that war created the opportunity for Grant to save the Union and advance the cause of freedom. This is all to say: In the next 36 months, I believe our economy will birth a new generation of web 3.0 firms and leaders. Why?
I’ve started nine businesses. The best predictive signal for their success has turned out to be the phase of the economic cycle in which they were started. Put simply, the best time to start a business is on the heels of a recession. And while pandemic economics haven’t resulted in a garden-variety recession – in either its duration (short) or its recovery (K-shaped) – there are factors that make this the best time to start a business in over a decade. Specifically:
Unprecedented stimulus and savings resulting in a Nazaré-like wave of consumer spending.
A gestalt among consumers and enterprises to question the status quo, and be open to new products and services.
The emergence of new fields and the capital to disrupt traditional industries as immunities kick in and monopoles are broken up.
The massive waves of Portugal are a function of the Nazaré Canyon, a submarine valley 5,000 meters deep and 2,300 kilometers long that functions as a ripple polarizer. Ocean swells build up over thousands of miles and flow through this geological fault with a minimal dissipation of energy. I just read the last sentence and am wondering about the medium-term effects of edibles. Anyway, the greatest surfer in the world is just a freakishly strong swimmer with a fiberglass board – until the right wave comes along. The Nazaré Canyon generates the biggest waves, and therefore, the most potential for greatness.
Monster waves birth in the open ocean, but tectonic business waves begin with consumer spending. The combination of historic savings, government stimulus, and record asset appreciation is shaping a wave of consumer spending unlike anything we’ve seen since baby boomers decided consumerism was a virtue.
Similar to ocean swells barreling towards the Portuguese coast, the commercial opportunities powered by consumer spending will be shaped by business dynamics. And, as with Nazaré, there is a deep canyon that will convert this energy into the waves of change. That canyon is Dispersion, a fancy way of saying the supply chain, or route through which a product or service travels, is changing. Today, there are three big waves forming in the Dispersion Canyon.
Remote work will fuel massive opportunities. Over the next decade, we are going to see the most radical transformation of the American landscape since the freeway created the suburbs. This set will have two waves.
First, we will see a significant investment in residential real estate and communities. Commercial real estate is a $16 trillion asset class. If gross demand for office space declines by a third, we could see the GDP of Japan ($5.1 trillion) reallocated from office to residential real estate. Sonos, Sub-Zero, Restoration Hardware, and Slack – along with everything else that enables or enhances work from home – should benefit.
In addition, we will see a great repurposing of office real estate. Many offices will remain, but no company will need the square footage they previously did, and companies will look for increased flexibility. In New York City, the amount of vacant office space available for sublet has doubled since 2019 and, as of December, the commercial vacancy rate in the city was the highest it’s been since the Great Recession. In 2020, San Francisco went from the lowest office vacancy rate in the city’s history to the highest.
Some office towers will be remade as residential, while others will be flexed for multiple tenants (coming soon: Airbnb Office). Cities aren’t going away – young people and inherently collaborative activities will still want/need to congregate in person. But cities will be cheaper, younger, and more diverse, all of which are inputs for startups. At $47 billion, WeWork was overvalued; going public via SPAC at $9 billion, it might be a buy. Prediction: Look for WeWork to rise from the ashes of COVID.
The world’s most powerful lubricant of upward mobility (US higher ed) has morphed into a corrupt enforcer of the caste system. It has enjoyed 30 years of tuition increases matched only by the arrogance and self-aggrandizement of its leadership. COVID is the fist of stone coming for this chin. The pandemic moved 1.6 billion people into online education, and many will stay there. India’s largest edtech firm, Byju, is reportedly closing a $600 million investment, valuing the company at $15 billion, and Coursera is expected to go public at a $5 billion valuation.
The largest consumer industry in history is US healthcare. It’s also the most ripe for disruption. Imagine: Walking into a Best Buy to ask for help buying a flatscreen TV, only for the salesperson to hand you paperwork, for the 11th time, and ask you to wait 20 minutes before someone will help you. Only, you don’t have to imagine it, just think about the last time you went to a doctor’s office. At the doctor, you have to put up with this BS, because your health literally depends on it. Similar to higher ed, the healthcare industries have been sticking out their chin for years, raising prices while delivering worse outcomes. Healthtech startups raised $15.3 billion in 2020, up from $10.6 billion in 2019, according to Silicon Valley Bank.
This is a $1.7 trillion asset class that could be $130 trillion (the size of the bond market), disperse trust (eliminate the need for inefficient intermediaries), and reduce human bias in the financial supply chain. Every generation gets its gold rush (social media followed the web, which followed the personal computer). Young people have the edge when it comes to transformational opportunities, as their brains still have the plasticity needed to comprehend new models. In my fifties, it feels like the part of my brain that I need to understand this sector is dying – along with the part that can mimic my father’s Glaswegian accent. Strange, right? But that’s another post. For now, I’m taking fish oils and speaking to experts. This week on the pod, we spoke with crypto investor Raoul Pal, and a few months ago, Michael Saylor lobbied me to buy bitcoin despite its recent rise to $19,000. Note: I didn’t buy.
How can I help?
A year ago, it would have been harder to be optimistic about entrepreneurs addressing these opportunities, as Big Tech was likely to move in and dominate every open space. But at the tail end of the last administration, we registered serious movement on antitrust enforcement. And now, the Biden administration has signalled that it will double down, bringing two of the most compelling voices for enforcement, Tim Wu and Lina Kahn, into the administration. The breakup of Big Tech – and the limits on its offensive efforts – will birth new lanes the size of the 405 (yes, I’m in LA today). Thursday’s Congressional hearings confirmed what many of us have been saying for years: Big Tech is bad for society, these firms lied to us, and they need to be broken up.
Big Tech isn’t the only segment of society that has benefitted from the pandemic. If you’re in the top 10%, much less the top 1%, the dirty secret of COVID is that many of us have been living our best lives. The deadliest crisis in American history has meant more time with family and Netflix, coupled with an explosion in wealth. The top decile of Americans works with zeroes and ones, and this work has only been levered by remote technologies. Furthermore, the representatives of the shareholder class in government (435 in the House, and 100 in the Senate) have used the cloud cover of the pandemic to funnel trillions of dollars into the market, juicing asset prices.
One thing the shareholder class can do is to invest in early-stage (i.e., seed) startups. I don’t enjoy seed investing. Almost every business idea I hear, I think, “This makes no sense, and will never work” – I also find early-stage CEOs and firms, similar to infants, needy and impossible to predict. Regardless, I have made (in the last week) two seed stage investments: Measured, a platform for weight loss, and ScholarSite, a Substack for academics.
Despite the broader economic slowdown, we are awash in capital, at every level. Wealthy individuals have by and large done incredibly well over the past year, thanks to the stock market run-up, and are looking for opportunities to invest. Tech-focused investors have done particularly well, and crypto has generated new bitcoin billionaires. Tech companies are important venture investors, and have more capital than they can use for core operations. The result? A record 225 US companies became unicorns in 2020. January 2021 saw the greatest total in venture investments in history, with $40 billion invested, and since the beginning of the year, over 60 additional private companies have achieved “unicorn” status. Meanwhile, the public markets are desperate for quality companies to sate the voracious appetite of SPACs.
Los Angeles & dispersion
I’m currently in Los Angeles and I’m channeling Michael Jordan. Hear me out: Just as MJ loved baseball, but wasn’t great at it; there is nowhere I enjoy more, and am less successful, than Los Angeles. I meet with agents, producers, and box office superstars who show me their sneaker collection and, over lunch at their house(s), tell me, “You are a genius, we must work together.” And then … nothing. I know this trip to the City of Angels will yield the same business (non)results. But that’s not why I’m here.
My closest friend’s mom, who cooked several hundred meals for me as a child, pre-teen, and teen, is struggling with dementia. I had lunch with her and her husband, who I have written about, today. During lunch, I’d grab her hand, and she’d look at me with surprise and then just smile. I’m not sure if in these moments she knew who I was, but I am confident she knew I loved her, and that was enough. I’ve let so much bullshit get in the way of expressing how I feel for people – some fucked up sense of masculinity or insecurity that to this day diminishes my ability to express true emotions.
There is a meaningful opportunity in the dispersion of HQ, education, and healthcare. There is a profound opportunity to register the finite nature of life and rebel against anything that gets in the way of letting people know that you love them, and how much they’ve impacted your life. I am a professional failure in my hometown of Los Angeles. However, there are people here who were generous with me, and whom I love. I need to get to LA more.
Life is so rich,
P.S. Section4, my EdTech startup, aims to to make elite business education more accessible with 2-3 week intensive “Sprints.” Our upcoming Sprint, Product Strategy, is taught by my NYU Stern colleague Adam Alter.
I once listened to a podcast where the guest was said to be an expert on public speaking
“What is the single most important thing for being an amazing public speaker?” the host asked.
“Theatricality,” the guest expert said.
The guest then elaborated on how important it was to use dramatization to convey the emotional richness of what is being said on stage.
I was driving in my car when I was listening to this conversation, and as I made a left turn onto a busy city street I was struck by how adamant and confident the guest was in her answer.
But I was struck by something else as well.
This public speaking expert was wrong.
Yes, theatricality is indeed a valuable tool in one’s speaking.
I’m fond of being particularly theatrical in my own speaking, don’t get me wrong. My childhood love of Monty Python means that I’ll look for any excuse to do my terrible impression of a British accent.
But theatricality is not the most important thing.
And it’s not even necessary.
You’ll notice that, like that speaking expert, I too am being adamant and confident in my position.
But my fervor stems from the heartbreak I feel when I have conversations with those who are considering becoming public speakers but resist the possibility – because they’re introverts.
Indeed, there are many folks who see the value in putting themselves out there as speakers because of the trust and authority it’s possible to earn from giving a compelling presentation.
Speaking leads to many rewards, like the opportunity to spread the word about their expertise, and even more tangible outcomes like clients.
But they hold back from doing anything about it because they don’t think they belong on stage.
They hear someone say “theatricality” and rule themselves out because, well, they’re introverts.
The introvert’s public speaking dilemma
It’s understandable why an introvert might be reluctant to put themselves on stage. They see loud, larger-than-life speakers show up on big stages in front of thousands of people and compare themselves unfavorably.
Why would anyone want to listen to me when that guy over there is so warm and boisterous? they might ask themselves.
And when they hear of how important theatricality is, they’re pretty sure speaking is a non-starter for them.
I’ve known so many introverts who come up with some of the most brilliant insights when they’re left in the solitude they crave. These are the kinds of insights that would be a slam-dunk when matched with the gravity and authority that comes from delivering those insights to hundreds or thousands of people at a time.
I’ve had discovery calls with folks who were considering delving into the act of speaking, but are apprehensive because they’re introverts and don’t think they have the personality for it.
One particular call comes to mind, in that I spoke with a lovely man who as about as mild-mannered as anyone I’d encountered in my line of work.
He had an upcoming presentation to give at a trade conference for his industry: agricultural efficiency. It is such a niche field that it was one of the only conferences in town. But if it went well, he would not only attract some clients but would be able to better position his company as an authority in the industry.
But based on the apprehension he stated in the call, and the shy and subdued way he said it, I knew that getting up and speaking in front of others wasn’t at the top of the list of things he wanted to do in life.
Being an introvert, he was confronted with the possibility that his was not a personality suited to the task.
The larger myth among public speaking experts
This is only conjecture, of course, but I imagine if the gentleman in agricultural efficiency had instead taken advice from someone who valued theatricality above all else, he either would have shied away from even working on his presentation or, in an effort to be more theatrical, he would have looked a bit like Ben Stein from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” trying to do Shakespeare.
At least, that’s what I’ve seen happen with other introverts when they’re told to embrace bolder presentation styles.
There are numerous public speaking experts out there who agree with the person I heard on that podcast who said that theatricality is the most important quality for a speaker. Still there are others who are quite evangelical about making the speaker’s personal story their most central and therefore most important asset. Others state how it’s all about one’s presence on stage or even how much they directly engage with the audience with interactive experiences.
But once again, these assumptions are wrong.
There is a larger theme in these ideas, which is the common flaw. Those who tout these directives of basing a talk on how theatrical the speaker is, how poignant their personal story is, or how much interaction they build into their presentation are all perpetuating the idea that the speech someone gives is only as successful as the speaker’s ability to give it.
But when my mild-mannered prospective client became my actual client, we put together a presentation that he gave at the conference. As a result, several highly qualified leads asked him to come visit them about providing his company’s services.
The reason they invited him out to pitch his services wasn’t because of his theatricality, his personal story, or any sort of interactive tools.
It was because of something else.
A speaker’s most important asset
The talk we put together for my agriculture client did indeed have stories. But it also had the types of things that many speakers and experts rail against. It had charts. It had bullet points on slides instead of just pictures.
It also had a central, key takeaway that could be summed up in as little as a sentence. He was able to boil the entire presentation down to a single, light bulb moment that helped the audience to have a collective epiphany – to understand how to solve their problems with agricultural efficiency in a way that didn’t seem possible twenty minutes earlier.
Ultimately, the reason he got such warm leads from his presentation wasn’t because of the qualities he possessed as a speaker or the specific ingredients that he featured.
It was because of how empowered his audience to make positive change in relation to the problems they were facing.
In their world of agriculture and farming, they were struggling with rising costs of resources. They had to navigate what was often a complicated subsidization model with the government. They had to negotiate the increased demand for an organic classification but an expectation from the marketplace to pay similar prices to that of conventional produce.
The reason why those folks came up to him was because they believed my client could solve those problems.
It turns out that a public speaker’s most important asset isn’t their theatricality, their story, or how extroverted and boisterous they are.
It’s their capacity to help their audience to believe that change is possible.
Our return to how things once were
A number of my speaker clients have reported back that they’re doing very good (and even well-paid) work presenting virtually as we work our way through the pandemic.
There are even some folks who are once again getting invited into hybrid models of presenting wherein they’re flown to another city and are presenting to a few people live but primarily are presenting to virtual audiences as well.
But as vaccinations and herd immunity become more of a reality in the coming months, there will be a rush of activity for people to re-position themselves in an industry that has otherwise been devastated.
This means that never has it been more important to get clear on the value you can deliver, and value doesn’t come from being the most boisterous, extroverted speaker out there.
Value comes from getting clear on how your expertise can empower others to live a better life than they have since this calamity began and beyond.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re theatrical, subdued, aggressive, or heartfelt – as long as the audience member is compelled to take positive and meaningful action in response.
The value of our speech isn’t based on what we say on stage, but rather what our audience does once we’re done saying it.
Introverts will make the best speakers not when they change their personalities but when they take the insights that have grown from a lifetime of productive solitude and show their audience how these ideas can help them to live a better life.
They merely need to convince their audiences that getting from point A to point B is possible.
A speaker in crisis
A handful of years ago, I was volunteering at a children’s hospital for a program that gifts books to children and reads to them bedside. The director of the program came into our main reading room all flustered because she had a 10-minute presentation to give later that day. I understood why she was in distress; she had previously described to me how glazed over people usually looked when she presented on the program.
Plus, she was an introvert. She wanted to be there as little as her audiences did.
I took her aside and asked her if she wanted some help. She said yes.
We then spoke for only two minutes, simply rearranging a few elements of what she usually said.
When I saw her later that day and asked her how it went, she told me that, upon her starting her talk, it was so deathly quiet that, yes, you could hear the pin drop. She then described how, at the end of the presentation, while people usually just politely clapped, this time they lined up with business cards and even invited her to apply for a grant.
My supervisor didn’t become an extrovert in two minutes. And she didn’t suddenly become theatrical, either. By rearranging her talk we simply took the audience from the painful thought of children staying at a hospital to the possibility of these kids feeling minimally feeling better because of books being incorporated into their hospital stay.
And when the audience saw this change as possible, they rushed to the director with interest.
So I call on you to put aside commonly held beliefs about what it takes to be an effective speaker. It’s not theatricality, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert.
It’s showing your commitment to your audience’s ability to change and doing everything you can to show them that such a transformation is possible.
The pandemic has changed the way we live and work – in some cases permanently. Many employers have decided to keep remote work as an option for some workers. Predictably, many workers have realized the boon to their finances by taking their big city salaries and relocating to cheaper locales.
This trend puts employers in a pickle. Remote workers who relocate are taking advantage of salaries intended to be competitive based on regional housing costs around headquarters. Their salaries now have greater value because of their relocation. Meanwhile, workers required to work at headquarters must continue to pay higher housing costs with the same salaries. Many companies are responding by renegotiating the salaries of their relocated remote workers.
A new term has emerged: localized compensation. Employers must consider the practical and ethical questions when negotiating salaries based in part on where the worker lives. These questions are even more pressing for existing employees who relocated.
Employers have a right to know where their workers live, but do they have a right to know their employees’ rental or mortgage payments? Localized compensation attempts to address this intrusion by setting salaries based on regional housing prices rather than the actual housing costs paid by workers. Fortunately, there are some helpful tools that your HR department can use to determine the costs of housing for relocated workers. The National Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index breaks down housing costs to the levels of county and metropolitan statistical area. There are other similar tools offered by private firms and public agencies, such as the United States Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey.
Once you know the relative difference in housing costs between your headquarters and the relocated worker, you can adjust salaries fairly. At least that’s the simple expectation. The reality might be much more problematic.
What about commuters?
Of course, not everyone who works at headquarters lives near headquarters. What about long-distance commuters who have already been taking salary advantage of housing cost differentials? Should their salaries all of a sudden be subjected to localized compensation evaluations? Many of them moved to the distant ‘burbs to take advantage of lower housing costs as they started their families. Should they be penalized for not living with their new families in a cramped, pricey apartment in the city?
These are questions that every employer will need to consider from an ethical perspective. A good argument against adjusting the salaries of commuters is that the commute itself represents a significant penalty. Unlike remote workers, commuters are not using remote work to take advantage of the housing cost differential. What about those commuters who now work remotely? Again, they did not relocate to maximize their salary against a lower cost of living. Personally, I would leave my commuters alone.
Guiding principles: transparency and collaboration
Determining localized compensation raises a number of ethical, financial, and managerial issues. Employers must work collaboratively with workers to set a salary system that is both coherent and fair. Workers must know what metrics were used to set their salaries. They should also know how their salaries could change if they relocate.
Most of all, localized compensation must account for the reality that some salary advantage will always be realized by those willing to live in cheaper locales. Setting a price on that advantage is the problem that can be solved through a transparent and collaborative localized compensation process.
Last year, I received the iconic Turquoise Pantone 1837 Blue box as a bonus gift from a Fortune 500 company. Inside was a handwritten, congratulatory note and a gift certificate for $1,500 to Tiffany & Co. It provided a woman’s name and phone number to call for personal concierge service, along with an option to take the gift certificate directly into a store to select a piece of my liking. It was the most memorable bonus gift I had ever received.
I emphasize memorable because I have earned a performance bonus of $1,500 or more several times throughout my professional career, and while it’s incredible to receive “unexpected” cash, or achieve a bonus that you have been chasing, it was the creativity and personalization of this gift that made me feel appreciated and empowered.
It’s no secret that working women seek flexibility and want to be rewarded and judged on deliverables, as opposed to how much time we spend at the office. We also seek equal pay, in particular for women of color. While these issues continue to play out, it is promising to see more companies shifting their efforts to prioritize company culture, as evidenced by examples like this terrific, supportive note that a Chicago-area CEO sent to his employees to demonstrated that he understood they have personal lives.
So, what else do women really want from their employers? I checked in with four female business leaders, authors, and TV personalities on the topic, and here are their ultimate insights.
1. Go beyond meeting my expectations
“Enlightened employers go beyond meeting the basic needs of their employees and seek to truly understand how to engage them,” Denise Lee Yohn, brand leadership expert and author of the book “FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies,” said. “By connecting what’s personally important to someone with the purpose and values of the organization, companies create meaningful relationships with employees and align their efforts with the brand.”
Yohn elaborates, “An example would be how Airbnb opens the café in its headquarters to employees’ families, even for dinner. This helps working parents, as they don’t have to worry about rushing home to prepare a meal or to spend time with their children. And it is a terrific expression of Airbnb’s brand mission — to help you feel that you belong anywhere — and its core value of hospitality.”
2. The value of my work is personal to me
Carrie Bobb, president of Carrie Bobb & Co, a real estate firm that works with women-focused brands such as Soul Cycle, DryBar, and Sephora remarks, “Exceptional employees, the most valuable assets for an employer, want to know they matter and that the work they are creating is meaningful and will last beyond their time spent at the company. It must be personal. During extremely difficult situations or in the midst of managing a crisis, it is critical to have empathy. Not just express empathy, actually have it. There’s a difference. Often in large corporations, there are so many people involved in the messaging itself that the heart can get lost in translation. Employees want to be heard and understood, and they can tell the difference between a manager expressing the message the company wants to deliver and a manager actually expressing they care for the individual.”
3. Ask for my opinion
Jenna Wolfe, the host of Fox sports show “First Things First” and a former “Today” lifestyle correspondent, offers a sincere and direct perspective.
“I’ve worked in television for 23 years, the bulk of which have been as a sportscaster in a male-dominated field,” she said. “The happiest of them have been when I felt appreciated, respected, and valued. I want to know that you need me, that you want me, and that I make a difference. Ask me my opinion, let me sit in on content meetings, listen to my ideas, and show me you’ll actually implement the ones which can help us grow. Don’t get me wrong — a raise is nice. An extra vacation day never hurts. And I’m always down for a gift card to any sports apparel store. But for me, as a woman who comes to a sports office every day well read and well prepared, there’s nothing that makes me happier than commanding the respect of the people I work with.”
4. Everyone likes to feel included
Gina Smith is the president of Rauxa, a woman-founded and led advertising agency owned by Publicis Groupe, and says she prioritizes being empathetic to a diverse group of women. She says, “We have always operated from the perspective that every employee deserves empathy, transparency, and the knowledge that everyone’s ideas are valid regardless of who they are. So it’s not just about meeting the needs of female employees — although that’s critically important — but also about age, experience, gender, orientation, color, and every other area of inclusion.”
Each of these testimonies reinforces that women want to feel valued, respected, and understood, and there are numerous ways for employers to demonstrate that. Meaningful, thoughtful, and personal gestures will go a long way and create a lasting impression. As a company founder of a female agency, I personally love to reward my team with personal gifts or self-care items that they would not spend money on for themselves, such as a massage or yoga membership, and by empowering them to take on more of a leadership role.
For the curious, with the Tiffany’s gift certificate, I purchased a Paloma Picasso necklace that reads “LOVE,” a value that I prioritize in both my work and daily life. I wear this necklace almost every day and I never forget where it came from. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s key to treat your employees like people, not transactions, because everyone can always use a little more love, all while moving up the leadership ranks.
This article was originally published on Insider on October 23, 2019.
Just as other brand names make their way into the dictionary, Zoom has now become a daily verb and a noun. We Zoom each other, we say “Let’s have a Zoom,” and we get Zoom fatigue. Now there’s Zoom burnout as well – a phrase that encompasses a lot more than the eye strain of too much screen time.
Emerging research shows we get less done and we may end up unnecessarily replicating communication in our personal and working lives. A new study highlights the causes of this fatigue and how to deal with it.
Too much Zooming can become mentally demanding. There’s a lot of evidence that when people are mentally tired, they tend to act less efficiently. Sustained performance on a mentally demanding task decreases over time.
Also, when we’re fatigued, our working memory performs less well. We become forgetful, our listening quality degrades, and recording Zoom meetings for later viewing simply creates more energy sapping screen time.
The online meetings designed to get things done could be the very things harming our productivity, just at a time when margins are particularly tight and businesses are financially on the edge. And there’s some evidence that using audio only might be more productive than an overload of screen meetings.
The new study highlights the psychological impact of spending hours each day on a range of video calling platforms. The study found people often reach “nonverbal overload” with too much eye contact. This means we need to work harder to send and receive all those nonverbal signals that are lost when many of us are just a head filling the screen.
In face-to-face meetings, another study points out, nonverbal communication flows naturally and “we are rarely consciously attending to our own gestures and other nonverbal cues.” This is one of the reasons many people can’t wait to get back to face-to-face. For others, Zooming is fine until the fatigue kicks in, then an unease arises.
This is where the good old phone meeting could come in. The same study describes “a wonderful illusion that occurs during phone calls.” We’re no longer weighed down with nonverbal overload or eye contact meltdown. We may even stretch, move around the room, even make a cup of tea as we speak.
We tend to imagine we are getting 100% of the others’ attention on a phone call. The researchers conclude that “only a minority of calls require staring at another person’s face to successfully communicate.”
Yet, evidence for seriously considering meeting over the phone comes from other academic work that goes back a lot further. Early studies comparing TV radio, newspapers, and computer screens identified newspapers as enabling significantly highest recall of facts. Computer screens surprisingly performed closer to newspapers and better than TV and radio. So, one up for the screens? The problem is we tend to remember less when we have screen fatigue.
In contrast, a lot of research confirms how radio stimulates the imagination. “I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are clearer,” goes the old saying. Whether with the phone, radio, or podcasts, our active imagination is more engaged actively listening than when we passively view. And we can become very passive when we’re screen exhausted.
Some neuroscience research has confirmed that when our imaginations are active they can become more emotionally stimulated. Scientists have interpreted this as an indicator that the audio content requires active imagination on the part of the listener.
One further piece of research becomes critical here, suggesting that imagination runs hand in hand with motivation. According to this view, imagination can make us more goal directed, more likely to get things done. Zoom fatigue can have the opposite effect. The imaginative process inherent in the audio call increases the likelihood that we’ll make good on our intentions.
If this is true – and there needs to be more research in the problem – it will certainly be time to become more conscious of when and how often we meet on Zoom, for how long and for what purpose.
Try holding some of your work meetings by phone. It might seem strange at first and take a bit of getting used to, but you might just find your meetings are more productive and satisfying. Your imagination might kick into gear and re-fire your motivation. I’m not saying banish all the Zooming, just re-balance your use of audio and screen.
Growth hacking. MVPs. Beta-testing. Pivoting. These strategies are now practically clichés – startup principles that drive almost every high-growth company hitting the market. I’ve experienced them all firsthand in my career, working everywhere from scrappy five-person operations to robotics powerhouses at the cutting edge of AI.
Here’s the thing: Sure, these principles can help businesses. But in key respects, these same tenets can also be used to supercharge your own career – especially at a time when the way we do business is in flux.
This has only accelerated existing trends. In the past, staying at a company for decades wasn’t uncommon; today the average person stays at a job for less than five years. Then there’s the gig economy boom in full swing, and the added impact of digitization and automation on workplace roles. The bottom line is that being able to evolve and adapt is key, during a global crisis and beyond.
With that in mind, here’s how to apply startup principles to yourself – whether you’re climbing the ladder inside a growing company, looking for a new job, or even thinking of blazing your own path as an entrepreneur.
Identify your unfair advantage
In a business sense, startups need to have that special something if they’re going to compete with the big, established players. This is something that can’t be bought or copied by competitors. Ali Ash, marketing director at Just Eat, wrote the book on “The Unfair Advantage” and has documented how the world’s most impressive startups have defined their own categories and offered something no one else was providing.
If you look at your own career, the same question applies: what’s your unfair advantage? By leaning into your unique strengths, you’re positioning yourself to offer what no one else can – just as Snapchat put its own unique spin on photo sharing and Tesla pioneered high-performance electric cars. When you lean into your own personal value proposition, you’re eliminating the competition and setting yourself up to be a monopoly of one.
I was an accounting major in college, a qualification that’s a dime a dozen. But early on in my career, I possessed a willingness to explore new fields and untested companies. Instead of sticking to my lane, I developed a diverse sales background – jumping, for instance, from selling multimillion-dollar software contracts to $9-per-month SaaS subscriptions. Ultimately, that breadth of experience, lateral flexibility, and pattern recognition became my unfair advantage.
So how can you isolate and leverage your own unfair advantage? Think about the unique intersections of your passions, training, and personal disposition. You may be trained as a lawyer but have a passion for languages and a knack for networking. That’s a combo not everyone can replicate. Once you’ve found your unfair advantage, think like a startup and leverage it every chance you get. Look for roles and opportunities where you, uniquely, can shine, and don’t be shy about your unique skill set in interviews and networking opportunities.
MVP your next role
Another tenet of startup philosophy is “minimum viable product:” the idea of testing an early version of a product in the market before investing tons in R&D. By measuring consumer response and iterating, you can either improve the offering or pivot to a new direction – all without spending a lot of time or money.
In a career sense, this means being open to testing the waters for new opportunities, even ones you may not be entirely comfortable with yet. Instead of waiting to be fully “ready” for something (a new career, a new role), be willing to dive in and learn some elements on the go. You may need to scramble, adjust, even backtrack. But – just as in the startup world – the opportunity cost of not going for it is too big to ignore.
In the middle of my own career, for example, I left business software behind to join a social media company, just years after Twitter started. Though I could see the growth potential was huge, this was a brand new industry for me. And there was always the chance social media might be just a passing fad. But I put myself out there, acquired skills on the job and grew into the role. (My unfair advantage – curiosity – definitely came in handy.)
So how do you MVP yourself? Understand that no role will ever be perfect, nor will you ever be perfectly positioned to seize it. Exploring lateral roles within your own organization is a great way to test the waters and observe what “sticks” and what doesn’t. Above all, give yourself permission to set aside perfectionism. (I’d go so far as to say you should always feel a bit unqualified for a role.) And don’t be afraid to switch gears or pivot when you need to. Just as in the startup world, career iteration never ends.
The best businesses, even when they’re all grown up, still think like startups. Netflix describes its corporate culture as one that “avoids rules.” That means the company prioritizes innovation, autonomy, and risk-taking in everything it does. Rather than resting on its laurels, Netflix is constantly exploring ideas and isn’t averse to disrupting the status quo of its own organization.
That same philosophy can be applied to our own careers. Far too many people fall in love with their product. They put themselves in one category and are unable to evolve beyond that. They get too comfortable – with a role, a company, a city – and stop being curious and pushing themselves. In this process, career prospects are curtailed or short-circuited altogether.
I continue to try to live by this self-disrupting philosophy. Case in point: I recently jumped from almost 20 years in the SaaS space to the world of AI and software-enabled robotics. A more traditional route would have been to stay in my vertical and stick to senior roles in industries I was familiar with. But I would have missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity with a robotics company. And more importantly, I would have missed out on a chance to grow personally and professionally.
How do you disrupt yourself? For starters, keep an ear to the rails for the next big thing – technologies or cultural shifts that promise to upend how we live and work. Right now, for instance, automation and AI are opening up brand new horizons. Continue to push and stay curious, even as you grow more senior in your career. And I’d even go so far as to say you should be downright skeptical of your comfort zone. If you’re not moving forward, you’re bound to go stagnant.
That being said, startup principles can be taken too far – in business, and in life. “Move fast and break things” doesn’t really work in sensitive industries such as health care, security, even social media. Likewise, in life, adopting “lean startup principles” shouldn’t be about being flighty or disloyal. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be building the necessary nimbleness to thrive in a shifting terrain, but providing stability and leadership for your team even when things are chaotic.
The days of nine to five, Monday to Friday workschedules are numbered. The pandemic ushered in a new era of worker expectations, and this shift isn’t going away with any vaccine.
A huge portion of the global workforce has spent the better part of nine months working from home, adjusting to a new reality, and building new routines. The door to this new way of working wasn’t just opened. It was pulled right off of its hinges.
A November 2020 study from JLL found that, for the first time ever, workers value work-life balance more than a high salary (72% versus 69%). That same study found that 71% of workers expect more flexible schedules post-pandemic.
This isn’t a matter of employee entitlement and shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge businesses need to somehow overcome. It should be seen as an awakening to the needs of a new generation of workers. It’s an opportunity to build a workplace that values employee happiness as much as it does profit.
And to be clear, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. There is no shortage of studies showing that employee happiness leads to greater productivity, retention, motivation, leadership, and more. Plus, the nine-to-five workday is a remnant of historical jobs and ways of working. It doesn’t map to when many of us are at our most creative, motivated, or productive.
Do the benefits of maintaining your status quo schedules and working arrangements outweigh the risks of possibly disengaging a huge part of your current and future employee base?
If you’ve come to the conclusion that change is necessary, here are three ways you can introduce schedule flexibility within your organization.
1. Availability hours versus working hours
One of the main hiccups involved in increasing scheduling flexibility is ensuring that your employees are available when you need them. If there’s an issue that needs solving or an opportunity you can jump on, will your team be there to act?
And while meetings might be changing, they’re not going away. For that reason alone, you need employee schedules to overlap at least to some degree. If you’ve ever worked at a company with international offices, you know how hard it can be to find appropriate meeting times when people are working different hours.
Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, one way to increase scheduling flexibility without creating a new set of issues for your business is to set a defined period of availability hours during the week. These are periods during which all employees need to be available – for meetings, communication, or time-sensitive tasks.
These periods shouldn’t be eight hours long. Instead, pick a period of three to four hours at the start or near the end of your typical workday. This should give your team ample time to interact with and support one another, while still providing far greater schedule flexibility. People will be able to drop off or pick up their kids from school, work late at night to avoid distractions, or simply take breaks as needed throughout the day.
While it might mean a change from your typical nine to five, availability hours should be a simple adjustment for your company – an easy trade-off to potentially increase employee happiness and productivity.
2. Weekend swap days
Is there a day in your week that is particularly chaotic? Maybe all of your kids’ extracurriculars line up and it’s nearly impossible to work regular hours or get anything done. Or maybe your partner has a weird schedule and everything falls on you?
One more question: Have you ever worked a weekend day just because you wanted distraction-free focus time?
Another way to introduce greater scheduling flexibility is by offering employees the opportunity to swap one working weekday with a Saturday or Sunday. This could see them working an adjusted week, like Sunday to Thursday, or splitting their week in two and taking Wednesdays off, for example.
This can be done as a one-off, allowing them to work a single weekend day when something comes up. But weekend swap days work much better when offered on a long term basis.
Give employees the option to work a weekend day for three- or six-month periods. This requires them to commit to a modified schedule upfront. The advantage there is it introduces stability week-to-week so the rest of your team gets familiar with their new schedule and won’t be guessing whether they’re in or out of the office day-to-day. And the employee gets to truly test whether the different schedule is a better fit for their lives.
Plus, by allowing certain roles – customer support being the biggie – to work weekends, you might even expand your service offering in the process.
3. Optional four-day work weeks
The movement behind four-day work weeks has been gaining steam for the better part of a decade. It has recently been thrust into the spotlight more widely as a result of COVID-19 but also because of several companies and even entire regions experimenting with this system. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern notably cited four-day weeks as a possible means of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic comes to a close.
While it’s clear many employees would love the added schedule flexibility, the four-day week represents the greatest logistical challenge for your company. There’s plenty to consider:
Will you set the specific third day off each week or let each employee decide?
Will you allow all employees to work four days, or will only some employees qualify?
Will you offer the same salary and benefits to employees working four days, or will these be adjusted?
Will people still work 40 hours during those four days, or will they work reduced hours?
Will you set a one-size fit all policy or allow managers decisional power on this?
Will you need to review any and all variable compensation plans?
Will this impact any funding programs your company may benefit from?
A four-day workweek does require a little more forethought and management, but you don’t have to jump in with both feet.
At Unito, we offer optional four-day weeks to employees who have been with the company for at least one year. We made this decision because we feel it’s essential for employees working four days to be very comfortable in their role and very capable of managing their schedule and responsibilities – which we felt was more realistic after working in the position for a year.
The decision to make the four-day week optional was a reflection of the fact that not all employees want this degree of schedule flexibility. This is especially true if your shortened week comes with a proportional decrease in salary – if people work 80% of the hours, they receive 80% of their salary. This may be a deterrent to some, though as mentioned above, work-life balance is more important than salary for a growing number of people.
This approach to the four-day week has allowed us to retain valued employees who really desired this type of arrangement, while most employees continued with their regular routines.
You have to stretch to get flexible
Changing your routine or your approach isn’t easy, but things truly worth doing rarely are. The impact a four-day week or flexible hours can have on your employees – and on your bottom line – in the long term is worth a bit of short term discomfort.
COVID-19 might have sped up the process a bit but these changes were always inevitable. Will your business be one of the first to adapt?
The unemployment rate is falling, but nearly 10 million Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic remain unemployed. A speedy vaccine rollout promises to reopen many sectors of the economy, but the national debt is on the rise. School and daycare closures have hit mothers, especially Black and Latinx ones, hard – but a new child tax credit promises to lift millions of families out of poverty.
As yet another stimulus package leaves the Oval Office with a signature – and the IRS sends an unprecedented third stimulus check to many Americans – one could be forgiven for wondering what to make of it all.
So we asked Jan Eberly, a professor of finance at Kellogg and senior associate dean of strategy and academics, for her take. The last time the US was pulling itself out of a recession – the Great Recession – Eberly was assistant secretary and chief economist at the Treasury. The experience gave her a clear view of the power and challenges of using public policy to restore jobs, incomes, and the broader economy.
Eberly explained that there is plenty that policymakers are doing to encourage a quick recovery. But it is important to understand just how different this crisis is from other economic crises.
“We can address what is happening in the economy,” she said. “But the underlying issue is the pandemic. Fundamentally, this is a public health shock and that must be first and foremost in the recovery.”
Here, Eberly offers her take on this strange, new pandemic economy.
Job losses have been stark but uneven
Prior to March 2020, the US economy was humming nicely, and weekly unemployment claims numbered just a few hundred thousand. Then, the coronavirus hit, and seven million jobs were lost seemingly overnight. Over March and April, losses climbed to 22 million.
New unemployment claims have since come down. “But there are still nearly 10 million people who have not returned to their jobs nor found a new job in the pandemic economy,” said Eberly, “which is more people than were unemployed at the height of the Great Recession.”
Moreover, she explained, job losses were not spread evenly over the economy. Unlike in previous downturns, where people pressed “pause” on purchasing durable goods like cars or furniture, two-thirds of the decline in consumer spending this time was on services. In particular, it’s the in-person services – restaurants, hotels, airlines, barbers – that have been absolutely clobbered. And because of the low wages associated with most in-person services work – as well as the overrepresentation of Black, Latinx, and women workers in these industries – the pandemic has been absolutely devastating for those already struggling economically. Women were also disproportionately impacted by school closures and the loss of childcare.
Given that the pandemic’s effect on the economy has not been equally shared, policymakers needed to focus not so much on “stimulus” as on “insurance,” said Eberly. After all, the map of the pandemic economy is so unusual that using traditional stimulus can even be counterproductive if it channels support to parts of the economy that are already spared or even thriving in a remote environment.
Instead, “it’s more like FEMA and emergency relief: effectively, a hurricane hit the economy, and you try to target policy on the people and parts of the economy that are most affected,” said Eberly. “But targeting is hard to do at the scale of the US, especially when the ways in which the pandemic hit are different than in the past. So policymakers have had to innovate or try to use existing programs in novel ways.”
The relief provided has been targeted
How have policymakers been targeting their efforts – and to what effect?
Most prominently, there was expanded unemployment insurance, which was of course targeted to precisely those individuals who had lost their jobs. The expansion boosted the size of the unemployment checks, how long they could be collected, and – for the first time – even who was eligible in the first place.
The pandemic was a “wake up to reaching the gig economy!” Eberly said. “The expanded unemployment insurance was also available to people who didn’t have formal employment. It was really a transformation in availability of unemployment insurance.”
Another targeted policy: the foreclosure and eviction moratoria, which protect homeowners and renters who have been directly affected by the pandemic. During the Great Recession, the housing market was at the epicenter of the financial crisis; during the pandemic economy, fueled by low interest rates and different living needs, housing has proven to be a relative strength. Still, that is cold comfort for the many individuals who have lost their jobs and might otherwise lose their homes.
In Eberly’s view, there is reason for cautious optimism that the moratoria are doing exactly what they are intended to do.
“The early research on this says that we’re not seeing people losing their homes – that they own or that they rent – as we did during the financial crisis,” she said. However, as the moratoria end, there is a lingering question of whether and how the accumulated arrears will be paid, and how renters, borrowers, and also smaller landlords will fare as the bills come due.
In addition, each of the three rounds of the stimulus relief checks have had income restrictions, which target them to individuals who earned less than either $100,000 or $80,000 (depending on the round) but provide broad support.
There have also been multiple rounds of funding to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was intended to support smaller businesses than those that usually benefit from broad credit relief. In Eberly’s view, this is a case where a potentially innovative program was hampered by the lack of existing connections to quickly target funds to those most in need.
With this latest round of stimulus relief, state and local funding is finally getting a boost. Earlier relief packages danced around the issue, assisting badly battered states and cities by providing funds for schools, vaccines, testing, and food assistance. But this time, money is going straight to state and city coffers. “Three hundred fifty billion for state and local governments that have been hit hard by the pandemic is what states and cities were asking for,” Eberly said. The funds “give them more flexibility to buttress programs and needs that arose during the pandemic, especially after the exhaustion of their rainy-day funds.”
Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, the latest round of stimulus also provides targeted relief to families with children in the form of an enhanced child tax credit. For all but the highest earning families, the credit will be increased to $3,600 for kids under six, and $3,000 for kids under 18 – and critically, it will be refundable and paid out throughout the year, meaning that families who don’t ordinarily earn enough to benefit will still receive periodic checks for the full amount. Some estimates suggest that the benefit could lift 40% of children out of poverty.
“The group in the US most exposed to poverty is children,” Eberly said. “The credit is helping families with children who were especially vulnerable during the pandemic because they were vulnerable already.”
This could be transformational. If this credit is extended to subsequent years, she said, “it could reduce childhood poverty and distress for those who need it most – and where the benefits could change lives.”
What will be the long-term impact?
It is too soon to know whether economic changes, like work-from-home, and policy changes, like targeted fiscal support, will last. But the pandemic has forced action and innovation. The first CARES Act was passed in record time and provided crucial initial support. When the pandemic outlasted that first effort, policymakers came back with targeted support plus some broad measures intended to bridge the economy through a tough winter and on to post-COVID.
Eberly is optimistic that these measures will act as that bridge. Some sectors of the economy have already bounced back or are poised for a quick recovery. After all, many individuals who have remained employed throughout the pandemic have extra money in their pockets and will want to spend it. Savings are at record highs and some spending categories are already strong.
“As the underlying public health crisis recedes, some parts of the economy will come back energetically. People will be able to get out and travel and live their lives with more confidence,” Eberly said.
Still, she worries that other parts of the economy will be far slower to recover, and that many workers who have been the hardest hit will continue to struggle. One particular concern as the pandemic drags on is that, once individuals have been out of the labor force for a long time, it gets harder and harder to return. “When people talk about the ‘scarring’ of the economy, it’s usually around long-term unemployment,” Eberly said. This is especially true for groups that had higher unemployment rates to begin with and were just getting more economic traction pre-pandemic.
Small businesses, long shuttered, could run into similar problems as they try to reopen. And while new businesses will eventually step in to fill the gap, that all takes time. “We will see some good headlines, I hope. I’m optimistic about that,” she said. “But it won’t lift everyone simultaneously.”
What is Eberly not particularly concerned about at this time? The accumulated debt, which is paying for all of this relief. There is near unanimous consensus among economists that the national debt is large, and quickly growing larger. And there is concern that it may constrain our ability to act so aggressively in the future. But “the best thing we can do for future fiscal stimulus is to get the economy back on its feet,” she said. “Right now, there is a necessary focus on recovery. And with interest rates low, there is some breathing room to invest in a stronger, more resilient economy.”
Above all, Eberly hopes that the extraordinary moment will convince Americans that thoughtful, competently executed, and well-targeted government policies can go a long way toward building an economy that works for everyone. Amid the missed opportunities and unimaginable losses, there also came innovation and a deep commitment to help provide relief.
“If what people and policymakers learn is that governments can help – to intervene effectively to provide relief from a once-in-a-generation pandemic – that would be a success of policy,” she said.