8 workplace HR podcasts to transform your commute

Louisa Dickinson
April 5, 2017

Listening to podcasts is a great way to turn unproductive time (when you are commuting for example) into learning experiences. Podcasts provide a great opportunity to keep up to date with workplace HR developments and listen to some really stimulating and interesting discussions. Here is a selection of my favourite workplace HR podcasts that I think you might enjoy:

1. Are you a giver or taker? – TED Talk

As you’re no doubt aware, TED Talks are a fabulous way to access a huge range of innovative ideas quickly. This snappy talk is presented by Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, who after surveying over 30,000 people, found that in every workplace there are three basic kinds of people: givers, takers and matchers. While the first two categories are pretty self-explanatory, Adam found that most people fall into the final category, the “matcher,” that is, someone who works from a position of “I’ll do something for you if you do something for me.”

Adam observes that although givers were often the worst performers (on the basis that they often ran out of time/energy because they gave more help than they received in return), there is significant evidence that they make their organisations better, due to their positive efforts improving the teams, sharing their knowledge and providing mentoring. He then identifies a number of steps an organisation can take to build a culture where givers, who are the most valuable employees an organisation can have, actually get to succeed.

These include ensuring givers in the workplace are supported and don’t burn out; building a culture where help-seeking is the norm; and most importantly, being thoughtful about who you recruit and select for particular roles.

The talk certainly provides some triggers for interesting reflections on our own workplace behaviours and those of our colleagues, as well as some helpful points to consider when recruiting.

2. How to Be Vulnerable to Make Life Safer on Invisibilia

Invisibilia from the US Public Broadcasting Network has been one of my favourite podcast discoveries of recent times. The premise of the show is that it examines “the invisible forces that control human behaviour – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

All of the episodes are inherently fascinating and employ a combination of scientific and academic research interwoven with compelling personal stories about individuals or groups.

The episode “How to Be Vulnerable to Make Life Safer” tells the story of how the very tough masculine culture of a Shell oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was transformed via some pretty unorthodox means, into one where the workers were encouraged to open up to each other by speaking frankly about deeply personal issues. By allowing themselves to be vulnerable, the quality of communication between the workers shifted dramatically, which in turn resulted in significant improvements in the workplace culture. In particular, the workers were more comfortable to admit mistakes and ask for help when needed.

So significant were the changes brought about with the particular workers involved, that academics from Harvard Business School and Stanford have subsequently studied the workplace and published an article in the Harvard Business Review about the outcomes. They concluded that the shift, which saw the workers move to having greater personal vulnerability helped contribute to an 84 per cent decline in Shell’s accident rate and increased productivity. They also found that the “old way” of working on an oil rig, which had included “stoniness” and complete self-reliance had endangered staff and held back their efficiency.

3. Dr Ron Friedman on Extraordinary Workplaces – the Psychology Report Podcast

The Psychology Podcast is a really engaging and fascinating US podcast presented by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, the Scientific Director of the wonderfully named Imagination Institute, in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In this episode, Scott has a terrific discussion with psychologist Ron Friedman about his research on the art and science of creating an extraordinary workplace.

Some of the key aspects of extraordinary workplaces will be familiar to many of us but nevertheless, the discussion of these provides some great insights and provides some practical tips about how to build a workplace culture where employees are engaged and creativity is encouraged. The discussion highlights the importance of autonomy and examines the topics of work spaces, employee engagement and motivation.

4. How to be the Wisest Person in the Room – The Future of Work Podcast

I discovered The Future of Work weekly US podcast recently and from what I’ve heard so far, it provides a wealth of great programs. In each episode, Jacob Morgan, a futurist and expert on employee experience, explores a specific theme or idea related to the future of work, with the help of an expert guest.

In this episode, Jacob interviews, Tom Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University and author of the recent book “The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights.”

There’s an interesting discussion about the reasons for poor work performance and Tom makes the observation that it often occurs because employees have difficulty translating “good intentions into effective actions.” What follows is a conversation that cuts across many aspects of employee engagement and how employers and employees both have the responsibility to focus on improving employee experience. His research has found that experiences are what connect us to other people and what provides more enduring happiness than material goods and therefore, there is scope to make work more of an enjoyable experience for people. Ways to do this include ensuring that: employees have a sense of purpose; that they develop more autonomy; and that they can connect and form relationships with each other.

The 2016 wrap-up episode, A Look Back on 2016: Six Valuable Lessons Learned from Interviewing 53 Business Leaders is also definitely worth listening to, for a high-level overview of some of the key HR and workplace trends drawn from the interviews conducted during the year.

5. Managing Stupidity in the Workplace on Best Practice

Best Practice is a weekly show on ABC Radio National focussing on workplace issues and is a fabulous resource for those fascinated by these. Some catchy topics covered in the podcasts include: Managing millennials at work; How to be a leader who listens; Getting people to speak out at work; and Leadership and narcissism.

I was intrigued by the story titled “Managing Stupidity in the Workplace” and thought it might have been a humorous story on ridiculous things people do at work. It was, in fact, a discussion between host Richard Adey and Andre Spicer, a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at City University, London and one of the authors of the recent book, “The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work.”

The discussion starts with the observation that it is often the smartest people who make the most stupid decisions at work, because they don’t use their intelligence, don’t ask questions, and don’t test their assumptions, even when they’re dubious. There are some really interesting examples given of companies where this sort of approach has resulted in terrible organisational outcomes – like Nokia, which went from being the market leader in mobile phone sales to a company which ended up selling its mobile phone and devices division to Microsoft, after making significant losses.

Intriguingly, there are many cases where stupid decisions or practices can have benefits in the short-term but cause significant negative outcomes in the longer term. During the discussion, Andre offers suggestions about how an organisation can work to build a culture that is smarter by the encouragement of questioning of “thoughtless conformity.”

6. Imposter Syndrome on Life Matters

Life Matters, which runs every weekday on ABC’s Radio National , is a great source of stories on contemporary workplace issues – if you visit the show’s website and search past programs by subject you’ll see there’s more than 370 stories about work, with a real focus on topics like workplace flexibility, changes to working patterns, diversity and discrimination. The stories tend to be somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes, which means you can gain a decent overview on an issue in a relatively short period of time.

This episode provided some really interesting insights into an issue that many of us are familiar with in the workplace context, either as those who’ve experienced it or have watched others grapple with an often unjustified lack of confidence in their own competence and experience.  Another older episode that also may be of interest is: The problem with performance appraisals (and how to fix them)

7. The Moth: Workplace Bully Revealed on RN Afternoons

The Moth is a forum for people to share true stories in a live setting, in what is always an entertaining and often also a funny way. This story was replayed on Radio National’s RN Afternoons program.  In Workplace Bully Revealed, insurance industry employee Aravid Krishnan speaks of his experience working with Iggy, his manager and a notorious workplace bully and what happens when he puts a great new job he’d just started in Hong Kong at risk by standing up to the bully. It’s a great story, that you’re sure to enjoy.

8. The Exam – Earshot

Earshot is a twice-weekly documentary program on Radio National which covers a huge spread of quite amazing topics.

Although this is not a workplace-specific episode, for those interested in the craft of interview technique, particularly in the investigations context, it provides extraordinary insights into the process followed by the Norwegian police when conducting their investigation into the mass killings committed by Anders Breivik in July 2011.

It details the way in which the main investigator, police psychologist Asbjørn Rachlew questioned Brevik over a 9-month period in a process which he describes as being like an exam. Despite significant pressure to conduct a more robust interrogation, Rachlew and the other interrogators adopted a “softly, softly approach” to Breivik, in which they showed him respect and empathy and tried to win his trust. Their approach is now credited with assisting to achieve a just outcome in the case, while also aiding healing after the terrible incident.

How to listen to podcasts

You can listen to the above podcasts by clicking on the links and streaming them through your phone or computer. Alternatively, these directions from Digital Trends may help.

Happy listening! If you’ve got any suggestions for other good podcasts, I’d love to hear them.

About Louisa Dickinson

Louisa DickinsonLouisa’s experience as an employment lawyer and conciliator has informed her sophisticated understanding of the complexities of workplace disputes and their resolution. Louisa brings strong communication and analytical skills, as well as a sensitive, practical approach, to the workplace investigations and mediations she undertakes at Worklogic.

Worklogic helps employers resolve workplace complaints and build a positive culture at work. Worklogic also offers a free, independent complaints reporting service, Integrity Line. For a confidential discussion on your workplace issues, please contact Louisa via email or give us a call on (03) 9981 6567.

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