Amsterdam 2023

Wrong Fit, Right Fit

André Martin is an organizational psychologist and talent management executive with 20+ years of experience in talent development, executive team development, employee engagement, culture change, c-suite assessment & succession planning, innovation/design thinking, strategy development, and employee experience design. He is also a father, a husband, and a wildly curious learner who is dedicated to ensuring iconic brands become iconic companies.


Dr. André Martin

Chief Talent and Learning Officer & Author, Wrong Fit, Right Fit





Let's go to the next speaker, uh, who I've known for many years and there's so much about his work that I admire. So I met Dr. Andre Martin when he was the Chief Learning Officer at Nike, where he served for four years. Uh, I was so excited when he later took the role of the chief learning officer at Target, a US retailer, and I had so many questions for him, such as why would an organization create a senior position to create a learning dynamic? Why do executives view employee engagement, um, as important, and how do we leverage as a technology community those values? So Dr. Andre Martin has spent years and his entire career exploring these issues, including getting his PhD in organizational psychology. Uh oh, gimme a sec while off. Uh, so, uh, he then served as VP of People Dev at Google, where he, uh, led the global team committed to helping Google unleash the full potential of Googlers worldwide. So just a bit of trivia for you. One of the metrics, uh, that shows up in the state of DevOps research is the employee net promoter score. This actually came from Dr. Martin. Uh, it's something that he proposed to me that so wonderfully collapses the many dimensions associated with engagement. Uh, we loved it and actually integrated into the survey. So I'm so delighted that he's putting his learnings into his new upcoming book, wrong Fit, right Fit coming out in September because it's so important for leaders. Here's Andre.


Hi Amsterdam. How we doing tonight? All right, well, hey, I'm here as probably the person who, if you took a poll, knows the absolute least about DevOps. But that's not because I don't pay attention. It's because my days generally have been consumed by a different craft and a different set of questions. I've spent about 25 years helping some of the most revered brands in the world try to create even better companies. And I do it because I stare out to audiences like you. And here's what I see. I see super talented people who have spent tireless hours gaining knowledge and an understanding of whatever craft you're pursuing. And you go to your job and you go to work every day in the hopes you're going to get to show your full brilliance. And what's been really devastating to me is rarely that's the case. And as I look at the world right now, here's the other thing that I see.


I see $7.8 trillion of lost productivity in our companies today due to disengagement that's bigger than the market cap of Apple, Amazon, and Google combined. It means that there's real creative energy in the world that isn't getting utilized. It means that these big challenges that we're facing, they're not getting our brightest minds at their very best. And so my hope is that we're gonna do something to change that. But before we get there, you have to look at an even harder set of data. And that's that 30% of people like yourselves that join a new company in the hopes of getting to have a better experience. They leave those jobs within the first three months. And of those people that stay about another 50% will continue to look for a job even as they've decided to stay at the company. 50% of our managers, many of you in this room today, 52 would say they're burnt out.


40% of us, about half the room feel isolated at work, and a devastating 22% of us walk in every morning fully engaged. Does this sound familiar to you? Do you see some of these trends happening in your workplace or even for yourself? Well, if so, you know, we have to sort of look at this idea of what's happening, what has made work so much work for so many people. And it starts in a very simple place. The aspiration and narrative that our companies hold for who we are, what we value, and how we expect everyone to work every single day isn't aligned to the felt experience you have when you walk in the door. We've known this intuitively in my field for a lot of years, but recently, MIT and the folks at, oops, I'm gonna go back, MIT. And the folks at Culture 500 proved it with data.


They did a study on the espouse values of companies like yours, and they compared that to the lived experience of people as they talked about those companies on review sites like Glassdoor. And what they found is there's zero correlation between those two things. What a company says they are and what we see them value every day, they're at odds with each other. They're very different. And what that does to engagement is to create some issues. And so when we think about it, what are the trends that have gotten us here? We'd love to say it's covid, right? Covid has caused all these problems. Covid wasn't the cause, but it wasn't accelerant. It did get us to a place where these things were more acute, and so we're paying more attention. Some of the trends over the last few years have been things like our companies become giant marketing campaigns. The information that we use to make decisions about where we're gonna go next, they aren't necessarily built on the truth. They're built on this highly aspirational view of the world. Secondly is we've had a decade of decadent growth, right? And so our companies has filled our pockets with perks, better pay massages on Thursdays, all the things that we see. And in doing so, our companies become instruments of consumption, not of cause.


Then there's this infinite browsing mode that we all seem to be in. Thank thanks to our phones and the access to information that we have. Pete Davis wrote this wonderful book called De Dedicated, where he talks about this idea of infinite browsing and that everywhere we look, there's someone having a better experience than us. And we all have this sense of fomo or fear of missing out. And as a result of that, we're keeping one foot in and one foot out of our companies. And one of the most pervasive trends has been our search for meaning. The one thing Covid has done to all of us is it's made us really look hard at our lives, our lives at home, and our communities. How happy are we with our immediate space, our lives at work, and how we're spending our days and even our lives in terms of what we want outta the future? And so these things have been happening, and it's important for us to think about what else is standing in our way of changing Now, anyone wanna read this for me? What's this say?


Nah, it really doesn't. Now it's a cheap parlor trick, but it makes a very important point. We won't change unless we start seeing the world as potentially different. If we stop bringing our old models to the workplace every single day that we walk in, if we take three steps back, open our eyes really wide and look at what's happening a little bit differently. And I'll tell you what, I have a lot of faith and a lot of optimism that we can make a change in this spot. And it's because of another skill that you all have and it is not the right deck. So here we are. So how do we get in a place where we can change the way work is done? And I think it comes down to really looking at this question that we're leaning into in terms of not good or bad culture.


I've walked into many of the world's companies over the years, and I have yet to seen a company that sets out to make the experience really bad for its people. There's toxic leaders, there's poorly run teams, there's way too much work in our companies, but 60% of us generally are happy. We're content. But 40% of us struggle and we struggle. Struggle for some real reasons, right? We struggle because something's happening in terms of right or wrong fits. So I went out over the last four months and I did 65 interviews with talent all over the world to really start understanding why has work so much work. And so I wanna share what I found. But before I do that, I want to do a quick exercise that allows you to feel what I felt. So everyone take out a pen and a piece of paper. If you have it, grab your pen, pick it up. And I want you to write this sentence on a piece of paper. Try it, write the sentence on a piece of paper. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy log. Everyone got it? Now put that pin in your other hand and write it again. Give it a try.


So if you're anything like me, this is the experience that you had when you wrote with your dominant hand. It was effortless, it was high quality, it was easy. It felt like you had done it a million times. You were confident and you were capable. That is what right fit feels like when you have it in your job. When you switched hands, my guess is it was stressful. It was exhausting. If you tried to do it repeatedly over time, the quality was lower, you were more unsure. And even if you wrote that same sentence 20 times, it would never be as good as you could have been with your dominant hand. And this is the story of right or wrong fit. When you have right fit, it's like riding with your dominant hand. And when you don't, the days are hard. The days are stressful, and being at your best is almost an impossibility.


So what do we do about wrong fit, right fit? And what did we learn over the course of the conversations we had with leaders? First thing that we learned is that right fit, wrong fit experiences are pervasive. Everybody has 'em, right? And what's really interesting is how talent describes them. When talent describes right fit experiences, you know what they say? They say, I felt like I could practice my craft every day. Their creative energy was going to the thing that they're really good at, not towards coordination cost, not towards trying to figure out how to be a success in the system. It felt like they were wearing their best outfit. The days were easy, and I never had the Sunday blues. The other thing that was true is they were learning and growing and getting better at the things that they were being asked to do every day.


Now, when they had a wrong fit experience, the world was very different. People described it as it felt like I was getting punched in the face every day. I didn't wanna get up and go to work. I felt like everybody had the secret decoder ring to success except for me. And you know, the worst thing about those stories is the way that they described the aftermath of being in those wrong fit experiences. They said they were less confident, they were less capable, they had worse relationships at home, and they walked around every day feeling like there was something wrong with them. Instead of attributing it to what was probably true, which is the company probably works in a way that isn't the way that you work day to day, the way it solves problems, the way it socializes collaborates, the way it gives feedback develops people. It's relationship with time. Those things were different than what you prefer, and therefore the days were hard.


When we talk about right-fit experiences. The other thing that's important to take away is that most people left them. They left them because they were chasing something else. Often they mistake comfort for a lack of pace in their career. And many of them looked back and said, I wish I would've stayed where I was. Why is right fit so elusive? It's a low elusive for a few reasons. The first one is that the things that are visible is we're making choices in our career purpose, values, products and services. My current manager, my current team, those things are important, but they're not as important as what is below the line, often unclear and often not able to be seen. And that's how we work, right? How does work get done at this company? How do we do the things I talked about, make decisions, collaborate, recognize, and celebrate all of these things.


And the story that many of the interviews told me I found super compelling, which is when I'm in the company, no one tells me how it works, right? Instead, I have to bump into the company every day and figure it out. And in doing so, we just chip away at commitment and engagement and creative energy. The other thing that was true is that as companies grow, we bring in leaders from the outside, really capable people from the outside, from other companies. And you know what they bring with them, their technical skill and all of their ways of working, all of their ways of collaborating. And so what we become is this chaotic mess of a lot of individual choices about how work should be done. Because we don't set them back up. We don't sit 'em down and say, Hey, you're great at your craft.


We want you to do your craft the way that we like to work. We don't do that in and not doing that. We end up creating coordination costs day after day after day for a lot of people. Another thing that was really interesting is that as we make decisions about our career, both whether to stay where we are, join a new team or change companies, there's a lot of cognitive traps, traps we can fall into. The first one is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the idea that there is a set of truth in the world about an experience you're getting ready to take. And then there's what you, the decision you'd actually like to make.


And once you have clarity that this is a decision you want to make, you only see a partial version of the truth. You overemphasize the information that allows you to make that choice. And you underemphasize information that might have you take a beat, a pause, or look at other available options. The reason we do that is because the second thing on this page, which is called buring, it's called basking in reflective glory. It's another social science idea that basically says we will be oriented towards choosing experiences that are fun and exciting and interesting and new. Because the system in our brain that's governing that is called our approach system, it seeks joy and excitement. It's hedonistic, right? And the drawback is the system that keeps us in place is more about comfort. This new thing feels exciting, high energy. This old thing feels like I'm getting a nice soft, warm hug.


And so we tend to underestimate comfort and its importance in our life and overestimate what is new and shiny or the greener grass in the other pasture. And in that we tend to find that we leave things that we're comfortable and we go to things that might not actually fit our experience in going to companies is another thing. For any of you that are leaders out there in the world, I want you to think about this. Any talent that joins your company has this experience. They start off in recruiting and they get this bright, shiny, beautiful, bold, aspirational view of your company, the company you want to be. And then we bring you in the first day and we curate this experience of the company that we want you to believe. We are right. We show you our best leaders, we show you our products and services, we show you systems that work, and then the third version's the one you go to every day.


And all of a sudden you're sitting there and says, Hey, this thing that I'm doing every day doesn't really feel like the thing that you showed me on the way in the door. And you just create this giant expectation gap. So what do we do as leaders? What do we do to make sure that more people get a more authentic view of our company and that they feel right fit? The first thing we have to do is we have to shorten the cycles of rere recruitment. It used to be that we could hire somebody onboard 'em, set 'em free, and they go do their job. Now because of distraction, other options, and because the sheer pace of growth, what we're seeing is as growth goes up, energy in our company starts to dip. The only way to get people to get energy back is to remind them of why they're there, remind them they matter, show that the effort they're putting forth makes a difference.


And we miss those moments because we think recruitment only has to happen once a year. We'll do a big strategy kickoff and we'll let you go. It's every moment, every second, every day, because people are looking up keeping one foot outta the organization and thinking about those greener pastures. And so you gotta bring 'em back to the company. And so how do you do that? You do that by realizing commitment. And engagement is a ground game. You have in a single year, a thousand moments with a company, a thousand places where you bump into it as a talent or where you as a leader have a chance to increase or decrease the commitment, engagement, the people who work for you. And we often see these moments and pass 'em by, right? We're in the moments doing a tactical piece of work, running a project, doing a scrum, driving towards some strategic initiative.


And we forget that in those moments, that's where you are either reminding people where they work and why they're there, or you're allowing them to forget it. Very few moments are neutral. Very few moments are simply there and can be passed by. And so as a leader, the thing I would ask you to do, and as a talent, the thing you have to do for yourself is always use these moments to remind yourselves of the answers to five questions. One is, why is the world better with our company and our team in it? Secondly is how do we, what are we aspiring to do? Where are we trying to go? What priorities matter most? Third one is, how do we make money or have impact in the world? The fourth one is, how do we get work done? And the last one is, what's our promise to you as talent?


And if we were able to answer these questions more often in more moments throughout a single year, I think you would see fewer of us leaving, right-fit experiences, more of us feeling like that wrong fit actually might be okay, actually might be really good. And you're gonna see that $7.8 trillion of lost productivity start to come back into the company. And in the end, all I want for all of you is one of three simple things. If you have right fit, I want you to respect it. If you're in a place where it feels comfortable, it feels like you're riding with your right hand, don't mistake comfort for slowness in your career. Secondly, if you don't have it, it is waiting for you. You can either find it in the company you're at or you can search for it somewhere else. There's a place that will work for you.


And if you're a leader, just remember that every moment you have with your talent, with your team, it's an engagement moment. It's your chance to either increase or decrease the commitment of that person standing right in front of you. And so my ask of all of you is pretty simple. First, if you have any interest in joining up and helping out, go to the website, subscribe to the newsletter. If you have a story of right fit or wrong fit, one that you think is important to be told, I wanna sit down and talk to you. I wanna hear that story. I wanna make it anonymous. I wanna share it with the world because there's a lot of people out there that have struggled in ways that you already have, or you might be struggling right now. And if you think wrong fit, right fit might be a conversation that is worth having at your company, let me know that too.


I'm happy to come have that conversation with you. And more than anything, it's gonna take us all to change or get rid of that $7.9 trillion because culture is simply the aggregation of our collective behaviors. You as an individual show up in a certain way, and if that happens a hundred times, it creates a movement. It happens a thousand times. You got a brand new culture in your company. So with that, I wish you the best. I hope you have a right fit experience right now. I'll be out in the other room, uh, with the book. There's a ton more insights in it and a lot I wanna share with you all because I just want us to wake up every day in the 13.5 years. We will spend in our adult lives at work, and I want us to be at our best because we need it. Our companies need it, and so does the world. So God bless you for what you do and best of luck as you continue the conversations in your careers. Thank you.


All right, thank you. And.