The first in a 4-part series about engaging, and re-engaging employees. In this episode Don chats with Special Guest Betsy Reade Creech, the Director of Talent at the Kane Realty Corporation. Subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Don [00:01:28] Welcome. I’m your host, Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions. Today, the first in a series of interviews with industry leaders about the challenges of employee engagement. I’m delighted to welcome Betsy Reade Creech, the Director of Talent at the Kane Realty Corporation. Her responsibilities include strategic design, employment, branding, workforce planning and operational excellence. Betsy focuses on retaining and developing the company’s employees while also enhancing their skills. She’s been involved in human resources her entire professional career as a leader and consultant in a variety of settings, including large global companies and smaller, fast paced, growing organizations. Welcome, Betsy, and thanks for being here today.

Betsy Reade Creech [00:02:15] Well, thank you for having me.

Don [00:02:16] Tell us a little bit about Kane Realty, where you are and what you do.

Betsy Reade Creech [00:02:20] I’ll be happy to. So Kane Realty is a full service, real estate development and management company located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ve been in business since 1978 and our focus is on very high quality office, retail, multifamily and mixed use properties. So that’s where we spend our time and our energy and our talents. The goal of Kane Realty is to create irresistible places where people want to gather. So really, really community based in that way.

Don [00:02:56] Yes, I’ve been to at least one of your communities in Raleigh Durham, and it is a truly beautiful, gorgeous space. I mean, at least to my untrained eye, it’s just you guys have accomplished that goal. About how many employees do you have?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:03:08] So we have around 240 employees. I’ve been here about three and a half years. And when I came on board, we were probably a little over a hundred employees. So as you can see from the numbers, we’ve experienced quite a bit of growth over the last few years and can continue that growth.

Don [00:03:30] What distinguishes you from similar companies in your field? What sets Kane apart?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:03:35] Yeah, well, great question. And I think about that often because we really are different. Although we’re a real estate development and property management company, we consider ourselves to be in the place-making space. And I’ve already mentioned that we pay a lot attention to the details and create places that people naturally want to gather. But we do this with a team of people that really pay attention to all of the details. They know they invest. We invest in the community from the standpoint of understanding and appreciating the history. And the projects are complicated and take a lot of time. And we find that that’s kind of our niche in these complicated projects that aren’t just in our model of a corporate community that you can buy the land, put up the property, lease it, move on to the next thing. Our process takes a long time because we want to get it right. So we might buy a parcel of land or have a building that we’re going to redevelop and buy that effort of investing in the community. It spills over. And so we end up expanding the project. I mean, North Hills, as you visited is a prime example. It was an old, dilapidated, declining mall. And John Kane bought it and then over time about other parcels of land around it. So we have totally revamped and changed the landscape of this area of Raleigh through the vertically integrated development that we’ve done. We also aren’t trying to expand up and down the East Coast, for example, we are committed to the Raleigh Durham, the triangle area, because there’s so much going on here and we’re involved in the community that it makes sense that we stay in this area. Some companies would be trying to go up and down the East Coast, for example. And we find there’s so much to do here and we do it really well and the people know us that it makes sense. And that’s that’s our strategy.

Don [00:05:27] Tell me why employee engagement is so important to you both as a director of talent at Kane, but but also across the board, because I have seen a lot of very sincere, authentic interest from the senior leaders of the organization. Why is employee engagement important to you?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:05:42] Well, you just hit on it there in your comment that the senior leadership team making the managers, the leaders are genuinely committed to providing a healthy and a positive work environment. It comes naturally to us to want to do that. And we really and truly want people to look forward to coming to work. And we want to make sure we’re doing what we can to provide an environment where they can do their best work. We know that our success depends on our ability to do that with a great team of people. And it’s a tight labor market. We all know that. So even more so, we need to be focused on engagement. We don’t want to lose our people to competition. From the engagement standpoint, it came is a very values based company and it all starts with character. We hire first for character, next viability and last for experience. So in order to do that, you know, a lot lot of places I’ve worked before. You had to hire people that had five to seven years of experience doing blank. C++ coding or something. You know, I’m not looking for people with necessarily with experience doing what we do. We have a character we can train as anybody to do the work we do. But it’s really about trying to find that good fit. That engagement process is very important to us.

Don [00:07:09] So you’ve been with E3 Solutions for a couple of years now. And when I go to visit your operation and see your employees, you have a very young employee base, certainly millennials, 38 younger and even some Gen Z 23 and younger. You’re hiring for character. You’re hiring for people that are exceptional. That also creates some pressure because they have very high aspirations. How are you coping with this, this aspirational nature of just, you know, A and B players in this younger age range?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:07:43] One of the things we’re spending some time and effort on is really equipping the managers and leaders to recognize the need for providing that recognition, validation, feedback. People are different based on, you know, whether they’re baby boomers and millennials and so forth. And so if our leaders can recognize that and really spend time getting to know their people, they’re better able to do that and not just treating everybody the same. I mean, we all want to be consistent and fair and all those things. But we need to recognize that people are different and they want to be treated differently and they’re motivated by different things. So it is. And you said, quote, That’s a strong word. It’s it’s a challenge for sure. And we focus on trying to get better at what we’re doing. That’s you know, that’s one of our values as well as just, make the right decisions and focus on excellence and just keep getting better. So, again, it’s a challenge, but we are trying to address that. You know, another part that’s a challenge it came to is we have people that you know and not unlike other companies, I’m sure. But, you know, we have people that are working on these really difficult, lengthy projects at a very sophisticated level. You know, they take years to complete. So we’ve got those folks then we have people that are managing these beautiful properties that we’re building and leasing and we have the people that take care of them. And those are the folks that are public safety officers. They’re our custodial technicians. And one thing about Kane is people who work here and we see this in our results; people who work here know how what they do really fits in with the overall mission of the company. So whether you’re designing that building, working with architects and so forth, or helping keep it attractive and safe and pretty, we know why we’re here. And so when people are aligned with the mission, it makes it easier for them to say, I need to make sure I’m picking up that trash when we all pick up cigarette butts and trash as we’re crossing the property. John Kane doesn’t. Mike Smith doesn’t. You can find just about anybody who works here willing to do that. So that’s just another another thing that’s really important to us that we find the most helpful.

Don [00:10:04] Well, one of the reasons I’m talking to you that seems because in the first year you measured, you had very high engagement scores for companies in their first year measuring. And we’ve just finished measuring you again and your numbers are growing and getting even better across the board. And it’s remarkable, really, because not all companies can achieve that level of growth and improvement. Clearly, what you’re doing is is working. There are, however, in your organization, as in all of them, there are some employees that are disengaged no matter how hard we seem to try. And they can be very, very challenging. In your experience, why are disengaged employees so challenging to an organization and why do we need to be focused on them?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:10:47] Well, one thing that comes to mind in terms of what they’re challenging is that they truly have and we’ve seen the potential negative impact they have on our culture. And we we are doing everything we can to protect our culture. We’re very proud of it. It’s a positive culture. People appreciate the family feel and belonging and being cared for and appreciated. And when you have someone who’s disengaged that isn’t aligned, they can have a negative impact and they can become toxic. They’re draining to their teammates and the leadership team. They’re costly. The potential for turnover and loss of productivity is just. Very much real with disengaged employees. So the key really is to determine if they can move from being disengaged to engaged and if not, then possible exit is something that we have to consider. So those are just some of the areas where it’s an issue.

Don [00:11:44] Yeah. Know, and many organizations don’t even measure. So they don’t know how many disengaged employees they have. Do you see that as a danger to an organization simply not to know how many they have and where they are?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:11:58] Oh, yeah. Because measuring is very important. If you don’t know, then you’re guessing. And you know, sometimes what our guesses may be incorrect. So it’s been important to us to recognize the need to measure it. And when we did the first survey a year, a little bit over a year ago, it was the first one that Kane had ever done. And it didn’t really take long for the leadership team to appreciate the value and measure and engagement so that we could actually see those numbers. And, you know, I think some might have felt like we didn’t have as many disengaged people as we did and others were in white man’s thought differently. So it’s been helpful to be able to say, OK, this is this is the number we have is, you know, we measure by managers.

Don [00:12:43] So you have a dataset for every manager in the organization in terms of how engaged their employees are. How valuable has it been to you to look at this through the lens of each manager and the role they play?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:12:56] Right. Very helpful. Some of the areas where we do have some of the challenges are in the areas where we thought we would. So to do it manager across the board, we can confirm what we were thinking or a big part of an incorrect. And then we can go back and work alongside that manager. I mean, this is we’re doing this for a positive outcome, not any gotchas or tone or anything like that. We want to come alongside them and say, here. Here are the results. Here’s how you do in this area. And here’s some things. Let’s work on some things that we can do to improve that moving forward.

Don [00:13:36] So I know you love going in and talking to managers that have great scores. That’s always a treat. And just to celebrate everything, they’re doing well and absolutely make sure they know that you that you see that. What is it like for you to go in and sit down with the managers that have some of the lowest scores in the organization? How do you approach that?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:13:54] Great question. Carefully and again, from a positive outcome with the conversation that says here, we we know we have some challenges and let’s figure out how we can help address them. You know, our managers are receptive and we can get back to conversations we had last year with a couple of them. And they they recognize it, too. There is very little defensiveness at all. That’s more of the good. This is good to know here. This is where I think maybe some of the challenges are coming from. And these are we take responsibility from the company level, not when you’re doing this badly or poorly. We’re here with them to really work on how to get better. You fix them because that’s part of how we operate. How do we get better? What do you need in order to get better? How can help you get better? Because we’re at that helps all of us, if that’s the case. So hard conversation. But at the same time, if we were just, say, in your result staying and what are you going to do about it, that being different?

Don [00:14:54] You know, we’re not doing that. We’re you know, we’re offering the workshops that E3 has and then we offer and we have all of our managers on the manager resource center. So we can specifically go and say, you didn’t do so well in this category. Here are some things that you may want to consider. And it does a great job of helping with that through the approach that you all take.

Don [00:15:17] Well, thank you. And for listeners, it may not be familiar. Not only does E3 Solutions offer a unique and proprietary employee engagement survey, we also offer clients training on a wide range of topics. And we have a Web site called the Manager Resource Center dot com that is available to our clients that provides managers with regular 24/7 insights. Tip sheets, videos, articles on how they can do it differently. And Betsy, this is another reason why I wanted to speak to you, because when it comes to managers using that resource that is logging into the manager resource center dot com and actively using and looking at articles and watching videos and downloading templates, your team has some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen. How do you get these managers that engaged in these materials?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:16:08] Well, I’d love to take some credit, but I don’t know that I can say they’re hungry for information that’s going to help them get better and take 10 Tuesday. The E3 sends out certainly reminds people to log in. But when people say that they were actually. Useful resources available to them to help with the towns they have, they are appreciative of that. And I guess when I think back to getting started, one of my hopes and embarking on this journey of engagement was that we would have something like a manager resource center. So when we’re looking at different partners, vendors, that type of thing, I mean, a lot of companies will do the assessment and then that’s kind of it. But this whole approach of now here, here’s some things that are available to you for you to use. As I walked down the hall the other day and some guy called me into their office and they had the manager resource center up on their screen and they were looking at how to have a difficult conversation with an employee. You an article or they’ll look at a TED talk and listen to a TED talk is real. Excellent information that is relevant and easily accessible. And so we we have a lot of managers that get on there frequently. Now we have another s going to where people are using it. So that would be an a goal of ours as we roll out the new results as to trap those folks more engaged in using the resources available to them.

Don [00:17:37] Yeah, that’s you. As you know, we’re very science based and we don’t measure employee satisfaction. For example, we’re measuring drivers of behavior. How helpful has it been to work with someone like us that has this science based approach? Does that have meaning? Does that have merit? Has it helped?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:17:56] Yes, it does. And it’s helpful to me. You know, I’ve had some of the managers that might not embrace so much the science of it as as readily as others. But when you step back and have the conversation with them about, you know, people are looking for a couple of things when they show up at work out how am I doing and what’s next for me? And so when you can just kind of step away from the science part and talk about the application. Yeah, that helps. But, you know, it’s grounded. I mean, it’s it’s like you say, it’s a minutes based on science. Yeah, that means real. And it’s it’s the brain and all those things. And whether it’s an employee who embraces that in themselves or not or manager, at the end of the day it’s it’s pretty, but it’s somebody who’s making up. So it’s valid. And it hasn’t been a hard sell here at all.

Don [00:18:50] That’s great. Last question and this is a bit of a commercial for us. You’ve been working with us now for two years. What has it been like to work with E3 Solutions and our team?

Betsy Reade Creech [00:18:59] Well, it’s been awesome. And from initial conversations with Lori on your team to conversations with you, I mean, at this point, I think I’ve dealt with just about everybody there. Everyone is so professional and so responsive and helpful. Just bend over backwards to help us with this journey that we’re on from the workshops that we’ve had in Europe. You know, your time here in Raleigh in person with the team, again, the manager resource center. I could I could talk about that all day long. It’s been a great experience for Kane. And we appreciate the partnership that we have, the big three solutions.

Don [00:19:38] And Betsy, we we have really enjoyed my whole team loves working with your team because you all are also so responsive and helpful. You’ve been a great client. We look forward to many years together. I just want to thank you so much for taking this time to speak with us today. We’ve been listening to Betsy Reed Creech, the director of talent for the Kane Realty Corporation. Betsy, thank you so much for being with us today.

Betsy Reade Creech [00:20:01] Don, thank you. I’ve enjoyed my time with you.

Don [00:20:09] That’s it for today. I’m your host, Don Rheem. Thank you for listening. Next week, we’ll be talking with Les Smolin, a group chairman of Vistage International, the world’s leading organization for chief executives. And he’s also the host of Executive Leaders Radio. We’ve spoken with Les one previous time, but a podcast. And it was so interesting. We’re coming back to him for another round. Join us again for the next Thrive by Design.

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