An Interview with Karen Mangia.
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 Mike Broker.
Mike Broker is the Chief Strategy Officer at Trilogy Financial and a leader in the financial planning and investing space. He understands the need to work diligently in the moment to build something great for the future and is dedicated to helping his clients recover from hard times, get ahead with their finances, and develop a Life Plan. He is also highly focused on helping his team succeed. He authored the book Fit Financial Approach and utilized his background as a Certified Personal Trainer to coach his clients and team members to great success. Mike’s desire to help others pursue their goals runs through all that he does, which is why he’s quickly risen through management levels at Trilogy to lead this great team. Culture and wellness for the team is something that is at the forefront of Mike’s everyday operations. He wants to help cultivate the best and most effective team of Financial Advisors and support staff so they can be their best in helping everyday Americans get a handle on their finances.
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.
You know that saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life?” It’s complete crap. I love what I do. It has been a passion of mine for well over a decade, and it has still been hard at times and definitely felt like work! The saying should be, “If you love what you do, you will be willing to do the hard work.” When you know that the next phone call to a prospective client could help them answer a financial concern that has kept them awake at night for months, you’ll make that next call even when you’re ready to go home and call it a day. I can’t pinpoint a specific example, but every time I have a client become emotional in my office, because I have helped them overcome a hurdle in their life, I am invigorated to get to work helping more people.
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?
For several years, Trilogy has completed a full 360-degree review of our staff. We have an outside, third-party complete surveys and interviews with every employee of the firm to gauge their employee satisfaction and engagement with their work. Our executive and leadership teams receive a report with scores and insights from across the company to support a positive work environment.
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?
In my recent studies for my Executive MBA at the University of Denver, I actually studied the cost of presenteeism on American businesses. Presenteeism is represented by workers who go to their jobs, but due to illness, injury, or a basic lack of wellness, they are not as productive and focused as they could be. While many illnesses or injuries are unavoidable, I would argue that some forms of lower back pain, arthritis, diabetes, and hypertension could be at least mitigated with a healthy lifestyle. I won’t go into a ton of detail here, but lower back pain is experienced by 25.7% of Americans in a given three-month period of time! Based on a study from Lockheed Martin in 2004, they found that back pain causes a 5.5% loss of productivity throughout the year. If you multiply that by a quarter of your workforce and their productive output, it is not a small amount of profit we are talking about for any business, and that’s just one malady!
Wellness is not just a benefit that Millennials and Gen Z would like to see offered by their employer as if it were a ping pong table or nap room. It effects a businesses bottom line and should be taken seriously.
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?
I would ask them to try it. Take the leap. The worst that happens is you spend some money building good will among your staff and increase your recruiting capabilities. The best-case scenario is you see a meaningful bump in productivity and revenues. The WHO study is the tip of the iceberg for anyone who looks for research on the subject. Mental, physical, and emotional wellness all have studies showing their financial benefit if you’re willing to look.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
Our CEO, Jeff Motske, has also repeatedly pushed his company team members to focus on work-life balance. He understands and values the fact that we have families and lives outside of work
As our CSO, I wrote the Fit Financial Approach which is intended to be a book that helps people see the correlation between your financial health and your physical health. I believe strongly in wellness, and my book is available at no cost to our employees to support their wellness journeys.
We also have a recognition points system where you can recognize other employees for living our core values. We can gain extra points through living a healthy lifestyle by reaching a certain number of steps per day. We also have access to discounts on fitness and wellness services across the country. Our team members can use their points for certain rewards — one of which is a fitness consultation and planning with a personal trainer.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
A lot of the innovative and new programs we’re offering our team members overlap across multiple categories of wellness. We want our team to perform at their best, and we know it requires a balance to do so. America isn’t like European work standards, where they can have long breaks throughout the day, shorter work weeks, and long vacations in the summer or winter. But it’s important that we find ways to help our employees find balance so they can be their best.
- Mental Wellness: One of the standards we’ve always maintained is unlimited PTO for our salary employees. We know it’s important to have that flexibility and not have the anxiety of eating up your PTO if you need to stay home with a sick child or take time for oneself. We are also finalizing a hybrid work operating process with the purpose of providing flexibility for our team members to take care of personal needs while also remaining collaborative with their team members. Over the last few years, we’ve found that this flexibility is critical to mental wellness, productivity and a feeling of personal success.
- Emotional Wellness: We have launched a book club where we will regularly select business-related books to read and discuss. Not only is this a way for us to come together socially to discuss ideas and concepts, but it’s an opportunity for personal growth for each of our team members who join us. The book we’re reading now is Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why', which is one of my favorite books. Every time I read it, I learn something new. Separately, we launched the Trilogy Leadership University for any of our employees who are seeking personal growth and self-improvement opportunities. It’s for employees of all roles, skillsets and experience levels where they can learn leadership skills from top business leaders from inside and outside the organization. This 12-week course is giving our team a new sense of pride in the work they do, their fellow team members they support, and it’s generally uplifting and empowering them to grow and achieve their dreams.
- Social Wellness: The book club and Trilogy Leadership University I mentioned earlier are both great examples of social wellness at Trilogy Financial. Another program we have is a real-time recognition platform where employees can earn redeemable points. Some of those points include special social outings with company leadership, like a day of golf with our CEO Jeff Motske. We want to be able to give all of our employees recognition, access to leadership, mental breaks, reasons to celebrate and more.
- Physical Wellness: The real-time recognition platform I mentioned earlier has a lot of aspects to it. One of the ways our team can earn points is by walking 10,000 steps a day. And those points can be redeemed for a number of different things, it can be books or apparel, these experiences with leadership I mentioned, or even other physical wellness things like a personal training package with me (since I’m also a fitness coach).
- Financial Wellness: The current state of the nation in 2022 has us all feeling the impact of inflation, rising gas and food prices, and more. We have committed to provide monthly gas cards of $50 for the foreseeable future for each of our hourly employees to offset the cost burden of gas.
Generally, there are more things that we’re working on at Trilogy to help our team across these wellness categories. I’m excited to continue to launch more impactful wellness offerings to our team.
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?
Turnover is one of the biggest cost burdens to businesses. Providing benefits to your team members for professional growth, wellness and flexibility will help improve productivity, help them achieve their goals, support their needs and keep them working hard with you for longer.
One of the other reasons why I’m personally passionate about wellness in the workplace is because if someone on your team is in need, and we can alleviate that need through some of these offerings. It’s the mentorship, the coaching, the support, and ultimate the impact that I want to provide to our team members. If we can support them in their overall wellness, they can do their job better, live their life better, recharge better, learn better, grow better and more. Like I mentioned before, we’re the only country who expects people to work as long as they do without substantial breaks. And it’s proven to be not sustainable.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
We are helping our leaders (and all employees) learn new skills to support a work well culture through our Trilogy Leadership University. It’s a 12-week program where we bring in some of the best leaders from notable companies to teach on topics such as the importance of gratitude and how to lead with empathy. Our team hears from great leaders with real stories, examples, problem solving and more. We often refer to it as a mini MBA course because we provide a real professorship environment where people can learn the real-life business skills needed in today’s work culture.
Our Leadership Book Club is also more than simply reading a book and talking about it together. It’s a conversation starter that gives permission to team members to create a dialogue around leaders and leadership. We want our team to know that it’s ok to be a leader, in fact we want them to and this is one way we’re giving them the skills to cultivate that. Humility is one of the pillars of our company and we invite everyone on our team to be their real, authentic selves in every environment we create. And book club meetings like this give everyone the power of a voice.
We’ve been working hard for a long time to focus on wellness in the workplace and building a culture that both embraces it and thrives in it. I’m proud to share the average years our employees have been with us is 9.4 years. That’s great tenure! It tells me we’re doing it right.
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?
We are social animals, and we make improvements in our lives together. Chances are, if our friends are doing it, so are we (sorry, mom!). So, get together and prioritize your wellness. Do some yoga during your morning standup zoom meeting. Take a moment to breathe between meetings instead of going back-to-back all day. If you have a one-on-one weekly meeting, go on what I call my walkabout meetings and take it outside around the block a few times. Some of my most productive meetings have been on the move.
There are simple ways you can incorporate wellness into your team or organizational culture to motivate those around you.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Individualized Health Insurance — discounts based on healthy habits — When I was studying abroad in South Africa in 2004, there was a company we met with doing this. The fact that it is 2022, and the practice of rewarding Americans for healthy habits is not yet mainstream is baffling to me.
- Measuring productivity rather than time — I believe in a results-oriented work environment (ROWE). If you can get the job done in 35 hours, I don’t need you to watch the clock to punch your time, and if you wait around, chances are you’ll distract those who need the full 40 hours while waiting for your time.
- Workers will demand more flexibility and support from their employers — When possible, hybrid work arrangements will become commonplace. Work that previously needed to be completed in an office can now be far more flexible, and employees will demand that. Support from an employer can take many forms, which we’ve spoken about previously. It could be personal or professional growth, physical and emotional wellness, or even a gesture that says you care about your employees. Money will only be one part of a decision to stay or go when it comes to employment in the future.
- Wellness is contagious — Let’s be honest, lifestyles are contagious. Whether positive or negative habits, they are generative. When I was in college, I picked up smoking, unfortunately. It was one of the most challenging habits to break, and there is no way I would have been able to quit without my wife supporting me and quitting with me. After we had quit and modeled the way, our parents and others close to us quit smoking as well. Smoking is a bad habit that hurts your health and your wealth, so although embarrassing, I am proud that we were able to quit and influence others to do the same. We can turn the downward trends around if enough people subscribe to a healthy life and convince others to join in.
- You cannot replace lousy management with wellness benefits — As usual, the pendulum will swing too far, and we will most likely have to learn the hard way. Employers will create these elaborate and unique benefit packages only to see their people quit anyway. These benefits may keep employees for a bit longer than they would have stayed otherwise, but a bad boss is a bad boss. Eventually, poor leadership will drive people away, no matter what benefits you provide.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
A few years ago, the companies that offered wellness benefits were few and far between. They were seen by their competitors as gimmicks and useless. Today, the conversation is changing. Workers are already asking for benefits like this, and soon they will be demanding these benefits. Most Americans know they should eat a banana rather than a candy bar, but receiving a discount on their health insurance for choosing the former more often will go a long way. Most Americans know they should save for retirement, but making employees opt out rather than opt into a retirement plan will help create good habits. We can become more healthy together, and it will benefit all of us.
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?
Absolutely, people can follow our journey on Trilogy Financial’s LinkedIn page!
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.