Virtual Employment for Attraction and Retention

You belong somewhere you feel free

During the HCI event last month, several employers expressed the changes they’re seeing in employment trends. More employees and candidates are aggressive when attempting to progress in their career path and many are willing to make risky moves to get there. Additionally, it was noted that more people are becoming mobile in order to reach their career objectives. Because of this, employers are seeing an influx in voluntary turnover and shorter employment tenure. So, why aren’t employers considering telecommuting or virtual work to help retain their employees?

Over the last two years, I’ve been a full-time virtual employee. I typically receive the same responses whenever mentioning this to new acquaintances, ranging from curiosity, skepticism, envy or disapproving. Many people ask me if I feel isolated or if the lack of face-to-face time has prevented me from moving up within the company. Surprisingly, I’ve progressed faster in my career, learned more and had stronger development opportunities in a virtual setting than I ever had in the office.

Virtual work requires a person to hone in on specific skills or build new ones. It’s all about adaptability and identifying resources to use to your advantage. You learn to be independent due to the lack of “crutches” (aka constant coworker/superior feedback) or validation. This forces you to rely on your own decisions. Also, accountability is a must. The lack of micromanagement allows you to focus on producing results and perfecting processes. Of course, this only can happen if an employer has the infrastructure, processes and leadership to allow employees to succeed. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools are necessary to understand employees’ skillsets and help develop them for career succession.

Over the last week, I spent some time researching if more employers have embraced virtual employment options. Much to my dismay, the majority of the positions I’ve come across dealt with customer service (contact center, reservations, etc.), sales, consultants for software development and recruiting. Many of the positions were contract or freelance opportunities. I was surprised that more employers aren’t opening up to additional full-time positions that can be virtual, nor creating opportunities for internal mobility to higher-level positions. I’ve been someone who’s experienced both… and I continue to be successful this way. Sky’s the limit for my career potential as long as my employer has opportunities to support it.

Virtual employment can help retain employees for a couple of reasons:

  • It allows them to have better personal opportunities: We all hear about work-life balance or work-life blending. The point is, people have other needs outside of the workplace. For example, my fiancé recently got a fantastic job promotion that would require us to relocate 1,000 miles away. There were no second thoughts about accepting it. All I did was take a couple of PTO days to move and I was set. I didn’t have to worry about quitting my job or dealing with a lapse in compensation when I was struggling to find work. The process was very seamless.
  • It allows employers to find and develop talent: there are plenty of people within the country that may possess some amazing skills but might not be located near a major branch or headquarters. Organizations can utilize this talent by offering them employment without requiring them to relocate. This can be the same deal if an employee is ready to be promoted but can’t relocate. Rather than giving them the less-than-ideal options of staying underemployed, relocating or forcing them to consider another employer in order to move up in their career, a virtual option can help retain an employee while giving them internal mobility.
  • It focuses on what matters: Results. Much like the purpose of ROWE (results only work environment), virtual work can be supportive of a results-focused situation. Micromanagement is disengaging and sometimes people don’t perform their best work during normal business hours. Being strapped to a desk can lower productivity. And maybe some people thrive when they’re blasting music, while others might prefer a quiet workspace with no distractions. Virtual work makes it easier for people to find their happy place without having to deal with formal requests or pushback from their peers.

Virtual employment can be a fantastic opportunity for both employer and employee, as long as it’s done right. Consulting an Organizational Development Specialist and researching technology to ensure a virtual environment can function the same as a traditional environment will be necessary.

If you’re curious to know more how virtual employment and virtual internal mobility works, ask me! I’ll be happy to tell you about my ongoing career story. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Benefits of Working Remotely/Virtually

There seems to be this on-going idea that remote or virtual workers don’t work as hard or effectively as those who come into the office. Additionally, there is this common thought that these types of workers don’t receive any perks of working for a company because they are no longer physically there. Some may even believe that these types of jobs are illegitimate or a scam. Others could think that these individuals would be miserable because they don’t see/interact with anyone. In some cases, this might be very true. However, I would like to put this common belief to rest. After working in a virtual environment and speaking to others who have worked remotely for years, I have learned that there are many benefits to this type of role.

If your company has found a way to implement this role effectively, you may find that working virtually/remotely has both personal and professional benefits:

  • Increased communication: Working outside of the office means that you must rely heavily on communication. Also, your communication must not be taken advantage of. Because these roles rely heavily on using communication successfully, it has allowed an increase in effective collaboration. Additionally, employees felt that they built stronger relationships and teams because of this reliance on communication.
  • Increase in productivity and accountability: A lot of worker’s complain that they are not engaged because they do not feel responsible or accountable for anything. They also feel as if though they are not empowered to do their best. If you are working in a role like this, you have to be self-driven, organized, good with time management, and accountable. Your success and failures occur due to what you produce. Individuals in this role have found work to be more meaningful.
  • You are relocatable: Sometimes, things change in life. Perhaps you are a nomad that wants to explore other areas. Maybe a significant other is in the military or needs to transfer for a company. Perhaps you need to move to help a loved one during sickness or a hard time. Or maybe you want to try someplace new that has a better living situation. Reasons are endless and many times people can feel unfulfilled or stressed if they feel that they have no options to do these things. Working remotely can allow you to easily relocate for whatever reason without having to quit a job or search for a new one in the new area.
  • It can help your job search: Some areas just really don’t have a good job market and your job hunt may be unsuccessful. Maybe the area you live in doesn’t even have companies that support the type of industry you are targeting. Remote/virtual work can allow you to gain employment for the job function or industry you desire, with a company that is out of the area. Companies that offer this option can expand their job offerings to people that are struggling to find work in their current location.
  • Can cut costs and time: You can save a ton of money working home if you don’t need to spend it on transportation and gas. You can also cut down time spent on commuting and allow yourself to have a little extra time to either work harder, handle personal affairs, or even just relax. Who wouldn’t want to save money and give a few moments back to themselves?
  • Always be there:  This is a great option for parents or pet owners. Sometimes parents/pet owners do not have the means to pay for babysitters, boarding, walkers, or daycare. Additionally, some parents/owners don’t want to use these options because they want their children or pet to know them while growing up. This option can allow you to be home and be there for when your children grow up or when your pets need you.

Of course, there can be chances where people take advantage of working from home, which is why this stereotype is out there. Surprisingly though, many people who are self-driven can be even more productive and dedicated to work than those who come into the office each day. It’s really all about finding candidates that are results driven because they’ll be the producers that are successful in any environment (inside or outside of the office). If you are a company, consider these options. You can cut overhead costs and expand your workforce to areas that have talent you wouldn’t be able to find in your immediate area. If you are a job seeker, be sure to consider this option because there are many benefits, such as the ones mentioned above.

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Life at a Startup

I’ve been networking with a lot of job seekers lately who have expressed their frustrations about finding good jobs in corporate America. Some of them have considered working for startups even though they know that sometimes working with a startup could be unstable. Others have even considered starting their own. Regardless, many of them were curious to know more about life at a startup to determine if it was the right choice for them. Luckily, I have recently connected with an individual who lives in Silicon Valley and has worked in different startup environments. She was happy to provide useful information about this.

Jocelyn Aucoin, who currently works at WorkSimple in San Francisco, has been kind enough to answer the following questions about startups. Here are some details to help give a realistic idea about it:

Ashley Perez (AP): How did you get involved with startups?

Jocelyn Aucoin (JA): “A good friend of mine originally approached me about helping him out with a startup he was working with, knowing I had a background of running my own business and knowing how key an autonomous work ethic is to working at a startup.  I was immediately hooked. Startup life really feeds my love of building and creating.”

AP: What are some of the most interesting lessons you’ve learned?

JA: “I’ve learned to be just as proud of my failures as I am my successes. If I’m not pushing myself, if I’m staying comfortable, then I’m probably pretty safe, right? But if I’m working to constantly do more with what I know, challenge the status quo, and think ‘sideways’, then I’m going to fail. It’s inevitable. And I’m totally fine with that. I’d rather try and fail then never try.”

AP: What are some examples of things that go against common belief in terms of starting a startup?

JA: “I think there’s a misconception that people ‘settle’ for working at startups. This is just not true. The brightest, bravest, most creative people I’ve met in my working career are the ones working for startups. If you want to be inspired – daily – it’s where you want to be.”

AP: What are some of the challenges that startup employees face?

JA: “The biggest challenge for me personally is the extreme ebb and flow. The work pace is unpredictable and things happen fast and without warning. That means you have to be on your toes at all times, ready to go. And whereas that’s difficult in terms of planning out a week or a month, it’s a catch-22 because it’s also what keeps me from getting bored.”

AP: What are some realistic situations that employees can deal with when accepting a position with a startup (i.e. lack of benefits, lack of stability?)

JA: “Well, there aren’t always a lack of benefits. That can be the case – but not always. It depends on the type of work you’re in and the level of the startup. But yeah – it’s realistic to expect a bit of instability. Again I’d say that’s what makes it exciting. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

AP: What is the difference of a startup environment vs. an established company?

JA: “Established companies typically have ways that things have been done and they require things be done in this way. Startup culture is built around innovation – and that shakes down to every level. They will generally welcome new ways of thinking and new ideas which breeds energy and creativity. You notice the difference from the moment you step foot inside a startup. You can feel energy.”

AP: What is some advice you can give to job seekers who are considering working for a start up?

JA: “Practical advice? Identify the companies where you can see yourself and start connecting with the people who work there via in any way you can. Don’t send a blind resume. Instead, say you’d like to chat and share ideas. Remember, startup culture is about collaboration and ideation. And things move fast.  Also, these places don’t have big HR systems in place, so don’t expect process to move in an overly processed way. General advice? Buckle. your. seatbelt!”

I was thankful for connecting with Jocelyn because this seems to be a hot topic out in the working world. Her answers proved that startup life can be exciting. Also, working for a startup can have an equal share of failures mixed with successes. If your personality and work ethic match some of the things Jocelyn had mentioned, I’m sure you will find your experience rewarding no matter what the outcome may be.

 More about Jocelyn: Jocelyn Aucoin is the Community and Social Media Manager at San Francisco and Minneapolis – based startup, WorkSimple. Find her at Blue Bottle Coffee or on Twitter at @jocelynaucoin.


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Will Results Only Work Environment Work for You?

Earlier this week, I was talking to WilsonHCG about their virtual positions for recruiters and sourcers. I was very interested in hearing how they made these types of positions work for them because I have never worked “virtually” before but I was always curious about it. They seemed to have these roles down pat, from the technology they use all the way to the performance tracking tools they have in place to keep everyone on track. Many people and companies have debated that these types of employees would never be as efficient as those who come into the office. However, this company and many others have progressively proved that statement wrong.

With the thoughts of virtual positions floating around in my head, I began to let my mind wander to other alternative workplace environments that I’ve learned of. I recalled learning about results only work environment (a.k.a. ROWE) a few months back and decided to look further into this workplace option. After taking some time to research it, I decided that I really enjoyed the concept and wondered if this option could work for certain companies and/or employees if they gave it a shot.

ROWE was created by Best Buy’s former HR managers, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson (now of CultureRx). The idea of this concept was to allow managers to focus more on results rather than the hours the employees are checking in. After all, the company’s success is dependent on the results. After tweaking it a few times, these HR managers found that productivity levels had risen. The freedom that this provided seemed to tap into employees’ natural intrinsic quality which empowered them to be more accountable and productive.

Here are some reasons why employees love ROWE:

  • Freedom to work when and where they want.
  • They spend less time unnecessarily sitting at an office to meet the required 40 hours.
  • They can work at a faster pace.
  • They have unlimited vacation and PTO.
  • They can make themselves available to participate in hobbies and events that take place during typical business hours.
  • They can spend more time with friends, family, and children.
  • They have more flexible time to go to doctors’ appointments and so on.
  • They can work during hours that they’re feeling productive rather than forcing themselves to have motivation during hours they aren’t.
  • A bad night of sleep doesn’t need to affect the quality of their work- they can work later in the day after they’re feeling rested.
  • It gives work meaning because the time they spend is specifically to get tasks done and achieve results.
  • Better work-life balance.
  • Decreased expenses: no need for gas to get to work or to pay for daycare or babysitters.

It seems like the list is endless, but those are just to name a few. Even though I’ve never dealt with this kind of work environment, I do believe in its benefits because I chose this option for school. During the course of obtaining my BSBA, I decided to choose the online and/or alternative classes that my school had to offer. It made more sense to me because sitting in classes after sitting at work all day didn’t seem appealing. Additionally, I was planning on moving out of NJ so I did not want to potentially lose credits and time by transferring schools. After completing my first “alternative” class, I realized that I loved it and couldn’t fathom going back to traditional classes again.

Alternative classes allowed me to have the flexibility to be more productive with my school work. Instead of wasting time and holding me back to a specific scheduled class, I was able to move at my own pace. At the start of each semester, I was able to see what the modules were, what the assignments were, and when they were due. This allowed me to schedule my life better and took away some of the stress I had when working full-time and going to school. I could work school around my life, as long as I got the assignments in on time.

Perhaps it’s because I have a type A personality, but this option worked well for me. I learned to do my assignments at least a week in advance to take off some of the pressure I used to feel when I was given assignments at the last minute. There was even one semester where I finished all my assignments within the first couple weeks just so I could give myself a mental break. Life tends to throw curve balls at you and things can unexpectedly come up, therefore, it was nice to at least have some control over this major responsibility. I loved the benefits and freedom that came with this option and felt that I was more productive and happier. I’m sure these feelings are similar to what the ROWE employees are feeling, as well. It gives them a more time to actually live life.

Will ROWE work for every company, every job function, and every employee?  Unfortunately, no. But this option can still work for a good amount of them. If you decide to test out this alternative work environment, be sure to help train employees going through the transition on time management and reaching results. I believe that even employees that aren’t the most self-driven will eventually learn to be more productive on their own once they see the benefits and rewards of getting their job done more efficiently.

Links about ROWE:


The End of 9 to 5.

Fistful of Talent- 80hrs Per Week VS. ROWE.

CBS: What is Results Only Work Environment?


The Buzz on Gamification

As I’ve been conducting my research to find resources for my daily blog posts, I seemed to be spotting the word “gamification” popping up more and more. I became intrigued once I saw this term trending on a more regular basis and finally decided to investigate what all the hype was about. I had figured that it had something to do with video games or gaming of the sort, so you could imagine my pleasant surprise when I learned that it was much more than that. Gamification does involve some of the structure and competitive aspects of games, but this trend is used to help increase employee and/or customer engagement. Needless to say, the topic was perfect for my post today.

In short, gamification is the concept of integrating game-like function and processes into non-gaming activities. Some common consumer examples of this would be frequent flyer miles for airlines or hotel upgrades for hotel chains. However, gamification has taken on a whole new form for human resources. Companies now use this concept as a tool for recruiting, employee engagement, recognition/rewards, and employee wellness programs. Some examples of these are as follows:

  • Recruiting: Companies have created games that are similar to Facebook’s Farmville or The Sims, but customized a structure that is relevant to the company and job function. The idea is for candidates to virtually display their abilities to multitask, perform job functions, and handle unexpected issues. Recruiters are able to see the candidates’ activity and distinguish which individuals clearly display the competency and experience needed to successfully perform the job duties. It is considered to be a virtual way to “test drive” candidates before hiring them.
  • Employee Engagement: Gamification can tap into employees’ competitive side which will increase their motivation to do certain tasks. This can also help employees be more engaged while doing boring, mind-numbing functions.  In addition to motivation, this tool can allow employees to collaborate easily and work as a team towards organizational goals. Collaboration can help employees build relationships with one another which will also increase employee engagement.
  • Recognition/Rewards: Gamification can allow managers to see which employees are putting in the effort and also determine which employees have the qualities that are worthy of reward or promotion. This can give all employees an even playing field instead of allowing the more outgoing employees to have the upper hand in catching management’s attention. On the other hand, if a company does not have the resources for monetary rewards (which can be common with the downturn of the economy), gamification can give employees awards and recognition. Even a simple thank you or virtual award can go a long way with employees.
  • Health/Wellness Programs: Gamification can be a fantastic way to get your employees on a healthier track. For example, I worked at a company where majority of employees sat through their shifts and obesity and health issues were becoming a problem. The company started a contest where employees were to set exercise goals and log their workouts on an online website for three months. At the end of the contest, the individual that lost the most weight and/or inches would win an iPad. Employees loved this contest. Even if they did not win the prize, they still felt like winners because they had now made a workout regimen routine and were seeing results.

Gamification can help make HR professionals’ jobs a lot easier and also provide some great benefits for employees. Employees will feel happier going to work, can grow professionally, prove that they’re worthy of promotion, and can even help their health. I suggest that more companies take a look at which “games” would be useful to their company and test it out. The results may be interesting!

More information on gamification:

Forbes: Gamification: Three Ways To Use Gaming For Recruiting, Training, and Health & Wellness.

Gamification Summit Videos.

Employers and Brands Use Gaming to Gauge Engagement.

Social Media Uses for the HR Professional

I’ve always been interested in human resources but lately I’ve really been on a social media kick. Some of my Twitter and LinkedIn followers poke fun at me because it seems as if I’m posting all over the place. Although this is somewhat true, there is a reason why I’m becoming more present on social media sites. As I become increasingly involved in the discussions and chats, I’m learning more and more. There are so many wonderful people out there that are supportive, informative, and helpful. I appreciate everyone that I’ve connected with because they’ve exposed me to so many interesting things. This experience has really allowed me to see that there are more uses to social media than the typical stereotype.

A lot of people and companies feel that social media is a distraction and do not associate it with being useful in the workplace. Those people would be correct if they only used social media in the most general of forms. However, internal social media can also take a business to great heights if utilized properly. I recently researched and wrote a post about social media uses in the workplace that touched upon some of the effective ways to apply it.  One of the areas I mentioned was in regard to the ways that human resources can use it as a tool. Today, I’m going to dig deeper into this topic.

Human resources can use social media as:

  • As a performance management tool: Social media is a way to have information in one central location throughout the business-spectrum. It also can have customizable reporting to allow human resources and management to be able to gauge how the business is doing. Metric reporting and scorecards can compare employee output against organizational goals. This allows the business to determine how they are performing as a whole, departmentally, and can even score each individual employee. Human resources professionals can take the individual reports and use it for regular feedback and performance evaluations. This can also help HR and managers know what areas in training need to be improved and what tasks individual employees need additional mentoring on.
  • As a rewards and recognition tool: Social media allows collaboration throughout the organization. It also helps managers and HR to easily and openly see what employees are coming up with the creative/innovative solutions and which employees are truly putting in 110% contribution towards the organizational goals. With this information being accessible, HR professionals can reward employees accordingly, whether it is with monetary bonuses or even just recognition. It is becoming more apparent that employees appreciate the regular feedback that they can receive via social media. Additionally, employee engagement has increased due to the social media recognition programs that companies have implemented. Who would have known that simply saying, “thank you” would make that much of a difference?
  • As a training tool: The training aspect of human resources can really be brought to life via social media. HR can put up training tutorials, documents, SOPs, and videos for employees to easily reference. These training materials can be updated quickly as processes change. Employees can use it as a knowledge base and have easy access to these materials at all times. This can assist them in gaining the information and knowledge they need to complete duties accurately. It can also allow them to be more efficient because the information is instantly available, therefore, they do not have to rely on or wait for someone else to assist them. In addition to materials, social media can give employees the ability to connect with other individuals throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions.
  • As a promotion and/or internal mobility tool: Social media can keep a detailed, documented history. This means that all employees’ contributions, projects, and efforts throughout their employment are easily visible. When it comes time for an employee to ask for a raise or a promotion, this tool can allow human resources to review supporting documentation and decide whether or not the employee displayed characteristics worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool can aid recruiters and HR in seeing which employees show potential to do further things than just their current job and expected career path. This can benefit employees when they are attempting to prove that they’re capable of a lateral or upwards move in the company.

The more I research this topic, the more I get excited about it. Some of these uses can be more efficient than the combined practices and procedures HR have used in the past. If social media can be this valuable just in one department, think of how beneficial it can be for all departments. The possibilities that can arise for an organization are endless.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please feel free to join the following chats on Twitter:

#SWChat held on Thursdays at 4PM EST

#HRtechChat held on Fridays at 2PM EST

#TChat held on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

Some interesting links:

The Social Revolution of Rewards and Recognition:

Social Media Performance Appraisal Process:

Social Media for Performance Management and Reporting:

Social Media Corporate Training:

The Rebel Workplace

Yesterday I was surrounded by friends at a 4th of July BBQ and I brought up the subject of job hunting issues. Some of these friends have a job they are happy with, some have jobs they aren’t happy with, and some are unemployed and actively looking. Regardless of their situation, they all had the same issue: there is a lack of job availability. When they explained this issue, they mentioned that there were jobs out there for them based on their past experience but there was a lack of jobs available for things they were interested in/cared about. They said the jobs they wanted wouldn’t give them a second glance because they had no experience to slap onto their resume. So, of course, this got me thinking. What if there was a rebel workplace that went against the norms?

Now, this idea is just a crazy one I’ve stirred up in my head after the discussion with my friends. It could be completely out there but it’s something interesting to think about. What if a company could figure out a way to make it work? I like to call it the Rebel Workplace because it does the opposite of what we’re used to. For example, resumes and past experience will most likely be a moot point and applications will be based on what the individual is passionate about. Here’s the rough structure I was thinking of.

1. Application Process: The application process would be a series of questions that a candidate could respond to so they could show: what their interests are; what they are passionate about; why they are passionate about it; what they’ve done to stay current with the industry; and how they have pursued it so far. Additionally, there could be a section where a candidate could submit a portfolio of work they have done so far. For example, if someone is interested in graphic arts they could attach a PDF of a design they did in Photoshop or something of the sort. This could help hiring managers to see that not only do they have a general interest in it, but there is potential in their abilities.

2. Interview Process: Hiring managers and recruiters can build a series of interview questions based off the answers that the candidate provided. For example, if a candidate was interested in software development then the hiring manager could ask questions like: how did you become interested in this; what language is your favorite; what publications/blogs do you read to keep up to date with the industry; how did you teach yourself to code; what are some things you’ve created so far; what do you plan on doing with this?… etc. This can allow hiring managers to get a deeper understanding of the candidate’s passion for the job type, their drive to learn without former formal experience/education, and so on. The candidate can show they are dedicated to the subject.

3. Training: If a candidate is hired they can go into an extensive training program in the subject of their choice. To keep the company safe, they can do a typical “probation period” during this training period. The trainee will have several different mentors in their department. There can be directors which will be the SMEs of the subject. There can be a leadership team which would consist of individuals who have worked several years in the field and can do the job function without supervision. Under the leadership team could be an array of individuals that are managed by leadership and the directors. These are the people who have come out of training and are able to do their job functions but still need guidance from time to time. Under that level of employees will be the trainees, which will consist of the new hires. They will learn about the subject and job function with extensive training classes, workshops, conventions, and hands on training.

Turn over issues? It might help reduce turnover. People would be doing something they enjoy so their satisfaction levels will be higher. Also, sometimes people leave jobs to pursue other career paths. Well, this company obviously encourages people to do the things they are interested in. Maybe the candidate was really interested in finance and did it for a few years at the company but now they are looking to do something in marketing. Sometimes people realize that their passion for something wanes and they have a new passion. Instead of leaving the company to find a job in marketing, they can simply make a lateral change within the company to the marketing department and go through the training for that job.

The reason I thought of this type of workplace is because I’m curious to know how much better the employees would work if they were able to choose the job they were passionate about without being rejected for having lack of experience or education. The fact that they are genuinely interested in the subject will also make them try to learn more about it, even outside of work. This may even help them retain more information and ideas that they could put to use in the work place. Innovative ideas? Yup. They’ll probably be able to come up with those pretty easily since they’ll naturally live, eat, sleep, and breathe for it.

Hiring a workforce based on sincere passion and interest versus their past experience may be an interesting concept. How many of you fell into a career path that wasn’t relevant to what you wanted out of life at all? After years of doing it, you might have gotten stuck in it because no one was willing to take a chance on you for something different. What if there was a company that did? What if you could finally do the things you had hopefully intended on doing years ago but got stuck in a work cycle that you couldn’t break from?

I would like to know how much productivity goes up in this type of workplace. Would people be happier with their work because they actually care about what they’re doing? Would they feel like they are fulfilling a life dream and goal? Would they respect their employer for taking a chance on them and allowing them to contribute innovative ideas? Maybe it would be a good thing to test, and maybe it wouldn’t. All I know is that I hear the desperation and hidden hope in people’s voices when they talk about how badly they want to do the things they cared about. Why not give it to them?