Erica Galos Alioto
In this episode, host Danielle Wiley and her guest Erica Alioto, Global Head of People at Grammarly, explore the changing landscapes of remote work, modern leadership, and communication. Don’t miss this thoughtful conversation that digs deep into modern solutions for the challenges of the virtual workspace, from fostering intentional communication to mastering the (surprisingly nuanced) art of timely feedback.
Erica shares valuable insights into navigating company-wide changes while maintaining employee morale and the continued importance of written communication in an age of evolving norms. (Yes, even in our emoji-filled world 🤓).
Be on the lookout for:
- What truly makes a great HR leader
- The mistakes too many companies are making with DEI right now
- Why we need to shift away from the ‘butts in seats’ mindset with remote work
- The need for greater transparency during layoffs and other trying times
- Why poor communication may be costing 10K per employee or more per year
- Erica’s book recommendation: Irresistible: The Seven Secrets of the World’s Most Enduring, Employee-Focused Organizations, by Josh Bersin
Episode 41: Erica Galos Alioto
Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway, the podcast that uncovers the power of influence and its impact on all areas of our lives. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week we’ll explore the many facets of influence through candid conversations with industry insiders, from brand marketers to social workers, educators, leaders, and more. Let’s dive in.
Danielle Wiley: Erica Galos Alioto is the Global Head of People at Grammarly, an AI communication company. She started her career as an attorney and practiced at the law firm of Latham and Watkins, but was quickly drawn to the world of startups. And in 2006, she joined Yelp, which was a 15 person startup at the time. By the time she left, the company had over 5,000 employees and she led a team of over 2,000 salespeople. In 2017, she joined Opendoor as the Chief People Officer, where she led the company’s growth from 400 to almost 2,000 employees. In 2021, she joined Grammarly to lead the People Team. Erica is an active advisor for startups, angel investor, speaker, and writer whose articles have been published in numerous publications including Fortune and Fast Company. Erica lives in San Francisco with her family and is in the process of searching for her next reinvention.
Danielle Wiley: I need to give a huge thank you to my marketing director and podcast producer Bex Camhi for introducing me to Erica. HR and people issues are ever present in today’s world. So I loved having the opportunity to speak to an expert in that space. Leading companies through times of transition is hard work, and I think we could all benefit from some additional insights and strategies in that area. Please enjoy.
Danielle Wiley: Well, hi and welcome. I’m so glad you agreed to join us. I’m glad that Bex has friends in high places.
Erica Alioto: Hi, thanks for having me. Excited to chat with you today.
Danielle Wiley: So I think I often speak to people I know, so it’s nice to have a fresh start and not have to remember what do I know, what do listeners know. We’re kind of starting from scratch here, so I’d love to start, just in looking through your LinkedIn and reading about everything you’ve done, you’ve worked at some super impressive name brand companies, and so I’d love for you to just kind of take us through your career journey. How did you get from there to here?
Erica Alioto: Yeah, so I definitely have a less traditional career path than most people. The early part of my career I was very focused on practical decisions. I wanted to go to law school, and coming out of law school, my goal was to get into a great law firm and make sure I started building my resume. Went to a great firm and made a lot of friends there, learned from some great people, but ultimately realized I did not enjoy being a lawyer, which was a tough thing to realize when you’ve just spent three years and a lot of money going to law school.
Erica Alioto: But I didn’t love the solitary nature of being a lawyer and the feedback loops were a bit long for me, and so I, after four and a half years decided to leave and wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next. It was kind of a scary moment, but I decided to take some space and just figure it out. Up until that point, being a lawyer was the only thing I thought I wanted to do. So I took a little space and there was a website that had recently launched. Mind you, this was prior to iPhones and apps on iPhones, and I was really excited about what they were doing and they were a tiny startup. It was about 15 people. I approached them and I asked them for a job and they needed somebody to do sales, so I just dove in and started doing sales. I ended up staying there for 11 years.
Danielle Wiley: And this was Yelp, correct?
Erica Alioto: Yeah, this was Yelp, yeah.
Danielle Wiley: That teeny little website known as Yelp.
Erica Alioto: Yeah. So by the time I left 11 years later, I was leading a sales team of over 2,000 people, the company had grown to over 5,000 people, we had gone public and it was just a really awesome journey. And so when I left Yelp, I had been leaning into some of the people related work, whether people development, learning and development, managing. I just found it really energizing, and so I decided I wanted to go into a head of people or chief people officer role. And ended up oddly enough, starting as the head of people at a startup that I had advised on sales earlier on when they were just getting started. So I had kept in touch with the founder there and ended up joining them, and the first two years were pretty challenging just not knowing exactly what I was doing. I had some experience recruiting and leading learning and development at Yelp for the sales team, but this was a whole different world of HR I was entering and so had a very steep learning …
Danielle Wiley: And what company was this?
Erica Alioto: That was Opendoor. Yeah, that was Opendoor.
Danielle Wiley: Opendoor, okay.
Erica Alioto: And there was about 400 people at the time I joined, and then 3 years later when I left, I believe we were about close to 2,000 or so. And then I joined Grammarly about two and a half years ago in the same role.
Danielle Wiley: So I wanted to start just with talking about HR in general because I feel like HR often gets a bad wrap, which I think is why the title, chief people officer has kind of come about because it sounds a little friendlier and less corporate-y, for lack of a better word. But that said, I mean you know this of course, HR has such an important role to play, especially now. And I think it’s kind of obvious the influence that HR has on employees, but I was wondering if you had thoughts that you could share about the influence that HR and employee engagement has on how companies are perceived by the greater public. Because I think that’s kind of an element to HR and chief people officering that often gets overlooked, but I feel like is really important, especially now with everything going on in the world.
Erica Alioto: Totally, yeah, the role of HR has changed a lot and I think the new HR, for lack of a better term, the focus of the chief people officer and in the shift in title even, I think a lot of that is due to less of a role of policing behavior that HR might traditionally be thought of doing, and more of a role of empowering people and really empowering the business to achieve results. And a great HR leader works in close partnership with the business to understand what their goals are and meet their talent needs and develop the people to meet the future needs of the business. And also understands people and understands what their needs are and is empathetic in understanding how to keep them engaged and motivated and excited about the work they’re doing. And I think a great HR leader is a really strong communicator and helps people understand how they fit into the bigger picture and how they help the company meet its goals.
Erica Alioto: So the role of HR in terms of the external brand I think is really about creating a great internal environment where people are excited to do the work they’re doing, where they do understand how their work is connected to the bigger goals of the company. And then it’s just a reflection of that on the outside, especially with a lot of the websites like Glassdoor and other places where people are sharing their experience. It’s more now about what kind of environment and culture are you creating and what kind of opportunity are you giving people to excel in their roles and achieve their goals.
Danielle Wiley: I think, I mean, and even beyond Glassdoor is the obvious one because they’re specifically asking people to share their experiences at companies. But something I’m seeing with Gen Z is they’re just sharing all aspects of their life online. So you have them documenting their first day at work, documenting when they get fired, showing the parties, showing their day-to-day life, like take a look at my cubicle. I mean, there’s such a looking glass now into work life that we never had before, which I mean has to make your job so much more important because there’s really a lack of control right now I think from companies in terms of shutting down what gets shown. I mean certainly you can have some Draconian rules and say you can’t do it, but that’s not really the environment you want to have. It’s probably better off making sure that what does get shown feels good and doesn’t showcase bad vibes, let’s say, using the Gen Z terms.
Erica Alioto: Definitely. I mean everybody that works for your company can be a net promoter and if you’re creating a great environment where they want to come in and do great work every day and they feel empowered to do that and they have good relationships with their coworkers and feel like leadership is making strong decisions, then I think you’ll naturally get that. So that’s the benefit of it. I think it’s easy to look at TikTok or Instagram as a scary thing because you don’t have control. It’s also, I think for the companies that are doing it right, it’s a great tool. If you are a place where people are excited to go to work every day, that’s going to come through and your team members are doing a lot of the work for you on the branding side.
Danielle Wiley: And that takes me to my next question because I was curious about recruitment, which I think is such a challenge right now for a lot of companies. And I’m just curious. I mean certainly having employees who are showcasing what a great environment you have on social is very, very helpful there. But why do you think there are so many challenges now with recruitment? Because I’m seeing people get laid off all the time, yet I’m seeing companies are having a hard time hiring and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious … It doesn’t seem to make sense just like looking at it on the face of it.
Erica Alioto: Yeah, I think it’s become really difficult for people to match their expectations to what companies are offering. And let me say a little bit more about that. For the last couple of years since the pandemic, we’ve been living in a state of flux where many companies have not decided what the future of work looks like, or maybe they made the decision, announced that, but then they changed it. And that’s not anybody’s fault. It’s that everyone’s living in a vacuum of information. We don’t know what the future is going to look like. We are so early on in remote work that we don’t necessarily know whether we’re going to be able to get the same results.
Erica Alioto: And when I say we, I mean just companies in general, just trying to figure out what is the right model, which by the way, the right model is not the same for everybody. There’s no one right model. I think it’s heavily dependent on how your teams are organized, on how innovative you need to be, on how teams work together, on how great you are at building a remote workplace and whether or not that’s an environment your team members are going to thrive in.
Danielle Wiley: I think and also, so much is variable based on the specific worker. I think about myself and how much I loved going into an office when I was a young woman without a family, and then I think about the me 15, 20 years ago who had little babies and toddlers at home and it was, man, remote work would’ve been awesome at that point, and now I kind of miss the office again. I think a lot of it ebbs and flows based on where you’re at in life.
Erica Alioto: Exactly. I think part of it’s personality dependent, just how good are you at working remotely on your own? And then part of it to your point is based on the stage you are in life. Some people, when we talked to team members, we heard from a number of team members, when we were deciding on our model post pandemic, we heard from a lot of people, “I’m much more effective working from home. I get a lot more done, I’m much more productive.” And then of course there are other people and oftentimes people who are younger in their careers fall into this category where a lot of the learning they typically do in the office, they’re missing out on when they’re working remotely, or maybe they’re relying on work for those social relationships. I know in my 20s, most of my friends that I look back and made in my 20s are from work, and those are my closest friends still to this day oftentimes.
Danielle Wiley: That’s how I met my husband. I wouldn’t…
Erica Alioto: Exactly. So I think it, really to your point, depends on what stage you are in life. And I think a lot of companies have not figured it out yet and have been afraid to commit to a model. So, understandable. They’re trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t work.
Erica Alioto: And then the other thing is I think a lot of candidates might enjoy remote work but maybe aren’t being honest with themselves about what environment works best for them. So they might see the benefits of remote work, but maybe they’re not as motivated to work remotely and they would do better work in an in-person environment. So I think oftentimes there’s a mismatch of people not being willing and companies not necessarily being willing to say, “This is what we’re doing” or “This is how I work best and this is what I need to do to be most effective, or to be happiest or most engaged.”
Erica Alioto: And I think just recognizing what works for us as individuals when we go into a job search for example, and being open and honest about that, and if we know that in person works best for us, then let’s not look at remote roles. But also from a company standpoint, when you’re entering the recruiting process with a candidate, being explicit about what you’re doing and what the challenges are and what the upside and downside is with your model and what type of people tend to work best in that model and not being too wishy-washy about it.
Danielle Wiley: That’s what I was going to say. I see a lot of … I get emails from this recruiter that I gave him a reference once for someone he recruited, and so I get all of his recruitment emails and I got one today and I was like, man, they’re all over the place. It’s like we’re in the Midwest and it would be great to have you here, but we’re open to something remote, but maybe some more of a hybrid. There was a paragraph that said nothing because it just went back and forth and back and forth. And by the time I finished reading it, I was like, I have no idea what they’re looking for, where they want this person to be and how this person could be successful.
Erica Alioto: I call it the choose your own adventure model, and that may work for some companies. For us at Grammarly, when we thought about what the future of work looked like, we were very explicit and honest with ourselves about the fact that there is some in-person component we feel is needed to collaborate as well as we do to build the trust and to continue to innovate at the level we do. And so while we mainly are able to work remotely, we do bring teams together intentionally a couple of times per quarter to make sure teams are getting that time together and are working together. And when I’m in person with my team, I find there’s no replacement for an actual physical whiteboarding session. I know there are lots of tools out there. I’m not trying to knock Miro.
Erica Alioto: But I personally just like that physical whiteboard and I find that when we’re all in the same physical space together, the energy feels different and the dynamic is a little bit different and we might come up with different ideas or play off of each other’s energy a little differently. So yeah, I think just being explicit about what it is that’s going to make your team successful and not budging too much just to meet a candidate’s needs.
Danielle Wiley: So I mean, you talked about kind of post pandemic, how things have changed and certainly the remote work, work at office situation is a big piece of it, but there was also a lot that went down in 2020 from A DEI perspective in terms of how companies communicate and the types of positions that they have, and just a lot changed. So I’m just curious to see how you think from a DEI perspective that HR changed and what kind of adaptations companies have had to … I mean, I know what we went through, but we’re a small company, so it’s always interesting to hear what some bigger companies have gone through.
Erica Alioto: Yeah, I think it was a good wake-up call to be honest for a lot of companies, especially companies that were in high growth. To be fair, it could be really challenging to balance high growth with DEI. I think a lot of companies didn’t prioritize DEI as much as they should have up until that point, and then there was sort of a mad scramble to figure it out and DEI consultants were very difficult to find because they were in super high demand. And I think a lot of companies tried to piece something together and figure it out. It’s not easy to do that. I think DEI programs take time to build. It takes time to build a diversity hiring pipeline. It takes time to build the culture and level of conversation in your organization that needs to be had at a moment like we saw in the summer of 2020. I think most people, leaders, if they weren’t already aware of the need for it, became very aware and many CEOs as well, and other executive team members became more aware of the importance of DEI.
Erica Alioto: And we saw a big increase post-summer of 2020 in hiring for DEI roles and then with the layoffs, I feel like a lot of places have taken a step back and deprioritized it again, which I think is a huge error. We’re, unfortunately, I think going to be having, whether it’s on any given day or not, unfortunately, we’re going to be continuing to work through challenges with DEI and I think it’s more important than ever to continue to invest in those. And so whether it’s needed at this moment or not, I mean, I would argue it’s always needed until we’re at a state of equity, it’s always going to be needed. But it’s not just a switch you can flip on and off. We have seen an increase in companies prioritizing it, but I do feel like it’s taken a little bit of a step back with some of the layoffs that have happened just based on what I’ve seen in my network.
Danielle Wiley: Yeah, no, I’ve seen the same thing. I wanted to jump back quickly to remote working because I figured I have this people expert here I need to ask you. I’d love for you to just share since I know you guys aren’t fully remote, but this is your area of expertise. I’m just wondering if you have any … Just a couple of tips you’d give for leaders leading companies that are mostly or fully remote. I think we’ve all heard some of the same kind of, I don’t know, trite things that everyone says, like use the water cooler in Slack, but what have you seen that works really well?
Erica Alioto: Yeah, that’s a great question. So a few things, and we’re still trying to figure it out. We still are continuing to look for better ways to collaborate when we’re remote. I’d say one is to the extent you use Slack, figuring out what those Slack channels are that make you feel connected aside from the work stuff. So we have a pets channel and a kids channel that people post pictures of their pets and their kids and they’re two of our most engaging channels. They make people happy. It’s great to get to know people, about people in their lives outside of work. And so leaning into some of those channels to recreate to the extent you can, that water cooler talk.
Erica Alioto: Two is written communication has become increasingly important as more companies are communicating async. So making sure that you have norms around written communication and whether that’s time for responding or how people engage in comments on docs for example. But I think that can be really helpful. Just being explicit about how we can communicate, can be helpful for increasing the level of engagement on written communication.
Danielle Wiley: I have to ask you about this, again, because I have an expert. We’ve had some issues with the light being on Slack, like people kind of taking up it upon themselves to police it like, “Well, her light wasn’t on and her light’s never on.” And just kind of explaining … I often do my best work when I’m walking around my neighborhood or taking … My brain doesn’t necessarily turn off when I leave my computer and it can be very difficult when you have some people who feel like they’re kind of chained in front of their desk and you can see that for whatever reason, someone’s Slack isn’t on at that moment. That has been a bit of a challenge for us, I think because we can’t see that we’re all sitting in our cubicles or sitting in our offices and working or chatting with someone about work. Yeah,
Erica Alioto: It’s interesting. I think it’s a holdover from the in-office environment where it’s this idea that if I can’t see you, I don’t trust that you’re working. And sometimes I’ll take a phone call on a walk instead of hopping on Zoom, and I think it’s better for our eyes. I think it’s to keep us healthier. If we’re not going to be looking at a shared doc while we’re talking, then I might take it on the phone. The more you can create a results driven environment where it’s not about is your light on on Slack, but it’s more about what are you being asked to do and are you doing that at a high quality and on time? Are you delivering on the results you’re expected to deliver?
Erica Alioto: The more you can focus on that, and again, that’s not something you can change overnight necessarily, which is why I think people are still looking at whether the light is on on Slack. We’ve got to make this shift in mindset away from this is how we determine whether people are working. Just because you’re on Slack doesn’t mean you’re being more effective than the person who might not be on Slack at that moment. It really should just be about the results. But again, that’s easy to say. I think it’s harder to implement, especially for places that have never focused on that.
Danielle Wiley: Well, and I think everyone brings their own kind of … I mean, I hate people using this word willy nilly, but I think everyone brings their own little PTSD from past work environments. And we all have that baggage that we bring with us from past work experiences and just that little twitch that you get when something reminds you of a bad work experience that you had. And it’s hard to let go of those. They kind of stick with you for a long time.
Erica Alioto: Totally. Absolutely.
Danielle Wiley: I interrupted you. Did you have another [inaudible 00:26:11] or we can …
Erica Alioto: So a couple of other things, just going back to the question about remote work and how people can manage effectively in a remote work environment and some tips for managers. I’d say the other thing is feedback. It was really easy to give feedback in the office because even if you weren’t in a conversation, you were overhearing things, you had those moments in between. Whereas right now, so if you were walking out of a meeting, I’d say it was very common for me if I was in a meeting with somebody previously and we were all walking out of the meeting and I had some feedback, I might take that opportunity to share the feedback right then after the meeting as we were walking out.
Erica Alioto: You don’t have those moments anymore. They’re not as natural. You’re not together in those moments. You’re not walking out of a meeting together. But just being really intentional about sharing feedback and making sure it’s happening on a regular basis. I try to make a point to, if I hear something about somebody that’s positive, I will immediately Slack them and let them know that I heard that great thing because I think we’re probably not getting as much positive feedback as we did in the in-person environment because again, we don’t have that space all the time. But also …
Danielle Wiley: That’s a great tip.
Erica Alioto: And then also just sharing any constructive feedback. So if somebody is delivering a presentation or you’re in a meeting and have some feedback for the person, just take the moment to share right then whether it’s adding to your one-on-one talk with them and sharing it in your next one-on-one, or whether it’s hopping on a zoom really quickly, or even sharing written feedback in Slack depending on what the feedback is. I just think that immediate feedback becomes so much more important because you’re not seeing each other in the hallways anymore and able to grab them and share it. So just being really intentional, whether that’s manager to direct report feedback or whether that’s peer-to-peer feedback or upward feedback, I think just being intentional about sharing that is really critical.
Danielle Wiley: I think as a leader, that’s been really hard for me moving to fully remote. I actually was interviewed for a blog post about this a couple of weeks ago, and I was saying when I worked at a big agency and I had two employees who were having kind of a conflict, I had this stack of Starbucks gift cards and we had a Starbucks in our lobby. And I would just hand them one and say, “Why don’t you guys go downstairs, have a cup of coffee, talk it out. There’s a lot of drama happening, just go talk it out. Come back when you’re done.” And it was such an easy, great way to get people talking and resolve that snipeyness that happens, and that’s really difficult to do remote. You can’t do that on Slack. It’s really tricky to sort out those interpersonal issues.
Erica Alioto: And I find that they can also happen more often because you don’t have the trust building in person that happens as much in a remote environment. So whereas if you and I knew each other from our conversations in the hallway and the elevator, if we didn’t work directly together super closely, an interaction I have with you about something work related, I might interpret differently than if we don’t have any relationship and it’s the first time we’re working together and that same interaction happens. So finding ways to build that trust to get to know each other on a personal level, whether that’s Donuts, I don’t know if you’ve used Donuts.
Danielle Wiley: We were just talking about that yesterday and I had seen some negative feed … I felt like it wasn’t just something you could turn on, that you have to … So for those who don’t know, Donuts is like a Slack app that puts in fun topics of conversation for people to chat about. But I had seen on Twitter that there were some that were triggering for those with eating disorders or for other issues. And so I was like, okay, I love this idea, but we have to make sure that there’s someone in charge of it to be looking. I don’t want to leave it to the robot to be coming up with all the questions because I don’t want anything that could potentially … This is supposed to be for fun, just a way for people to get to know each other. We don’t need to be sending people down like an eating disorder trigger spiral in the middle of their work.
Erica Alioto: Totally. And even if it’s a Donut that just connects people to hop on a Zoom call and talk and get to know each other. So I think there are a few different ways you can use it, but yeah, just again, creating moments to get to know each other. I love when kids enter the picture on Zoom calls. I think it’s one of the best things that happened during the pandemic. It was hard before the pandemic to talk about your home life sometimes in a way that didn’t make it feel like you weren’t committed to work. If you had sick kids at home and you were working from home, there might’ve been a question. I love that people are able to work from home and take care of their sick kids at the same time, and their kid might hop on the call, sit on their lap, and we get to know and see the kid or your pet.
Danielle Wiley: Yeah. You had to pretend that you didn’t have this home life. Like this doesn’t exist. It almost like the show, Severance. That’s kind of what the expectation was.
Erica Alioto: Exactly. And I think just getting insight into people’s lives and learning more about their families or their pets or seeing instruments in the background on their Zoom calls and asking them about that instrument. There are just so many great ways we can get to know each other now over Zoom. And so just leaning into those moments and taking advantage of them are important.
Danielle Wiley: So we were talking a little bit about layoffs, and I feel like every day there’s another high profile layoff that we see in the news, which it’s been really difficult to see and to see friends and former colleagues impacted by it. And I just have been thinking about when companies are going through challenging times, how difficult it is as a leader to kind of maintain that. You want to show folks that you understand and that you’re also going through a difficult time, but also as someone who’s leading the company, you want to be positive and talk about moving forward and kind of keep up morale. And that’s kind of a really difficult line to straddle. And I saw that you are kind of this expert on pep talks, so I was very curious to hear what you think every leader needs to know about pep talks, especially as we’re in this moment in time where there’s difficult things going on in the world, there might be difficult things going on within our own companies. There’s just a lot happening. So would just love to hear some of your thoughts on that.
Erica Alioto: And I think layoffs, just to address the initial portion of your question about layoffs, having a pep talk during a layoff, it’s tough and you can’t just talk about how bright the future is. You can’t just make people feel good about what happened. There are some real feelings. People have just said goodbye to some of their coworkers that they may have worked with for a long period of time. They’re fearing for their own future in many cases. They are worried about the company’s future. It really can destabilize a team or a company if it’s not done properly. And if it’s going to land well, it has to be authentic. You can’t just paint a rosy picture and hope that’s going to be okay. It has to be super authentic. I think you have to address the issue. And the issue is, look, we just had to say goodbye to a number of coworkers that I know that you all care about, that I care about, and that has to be real, and people have to feel like it’s genuine and honest.
Erica Alioto: Helping them understand what their role is in the future of the company and why, even though you know they may be questioning their own future or why you believe that it’s the right place for them in the future. And having an open conversation to hear their concerns and their questions and answering those transparently. And it’s not always easy to be completely transparent about each situation, for example, especially when you do a large layoff. I think the more transparent you can be and the more honest you can be, and the more you can recognize that even for the people that are still at the company, they’re feeling grief, they’re feeling fear, they’re feeling anxiety. That’s not just going to go away because you give them a pep talk, but it is, if you are honest with them and you help them understand what there is to look forward to and why this is a important part of the journey of the company and why the layoff had to happen, I think you can get through that.
Erica Alioto: And I would keep those conversations consistent and open, and it’s not just a one and done conversation. Those are conversations you have to keep having for weeks or even months after a layoff happens. And whether it’s a layoff or another tough situation. We are a Ukrainian founded company and we have a number of team members who are in Ukraine, and so we’ve been managing through a war for the last year, and you can’t just paint a rosy picture about that. There’s some real grief. There are very challenging situations people are going through. I think one of the best things we can do in those situations is to help them understand what they can control and what we as a company are committed to doing to help them through that.
Danielle Wiley: Yeah, I love that. So speaking of your current company, I have to ask you about grammar because it’s to the dismay of, I think a lot of our employees and my family, I’m kind of obsessed with it and I love grammar. And I feel like it’s become less important these days. I am constantly correcting the grammar of people on television, and especially don’t get me started on pronouns, but I just feel like there’s just less of a focus on it. So I’m asking you to make me feel better and tell me some of the ways in which it is still relevant, and help me feel better that all of the grammar rules aren’t going to completely fly out the window as we progress through time.
Erica Alioto: And I would say not just grammar, but just written communication general, I think is becoming more critical. People are moving to more asynchronous work, written communication is in the workplace, there are estimates that you lose $10,000 or more per employee per year on average because of poor communication. So there’s a real cost to poor communication. I was reading an article the other day that was saying that Gen Z doesn’t necessarily feel equipped to go into the workplace because of written communication. They’ve grown up on different modes of communication than we did, and so they don’t feel prepared to, for example, write really well crafted emails. So I think it’s actually becoming increasingly important to focus on this.
Danielle Wiley: Great.
Erica Alioto: Yeah, I think everybody has to embrace that there might be a gap there and that it’s something that we need to focus … Maybe we didn’t need to focus on training, written communication in the past, but it’s something that’s really important to get right, whether that’s internally with your coworkers, whether that’s externally with customers. Written communication is going to be the basis for how things get done, for decisions that are made, for revenue that comes in or doesn’t come in. And so it makes a lot of sense … For whether or not a customer stays or cancels.
Erica Alioto: And so it’s increasingly important to make sure that we are educating people on how to communicate effectively. And the great news is there are a lot of tools out there these days. Grammarly, of course, is one of them that help people communicate better. So yeah, I think there’s been less of a focus on it in … I’ve seen my kids’ writing and I love my kids, but I think there’s some opportunity there. So when they grow up on text, they just communicate differently with people. And so I think it’s something that in the future we’re just going to have to all focus more on as people leaders, we’re going to have to focus more on making sure people have the right tools, making sure we’re providing the right training to help them communicate effectively.
Danielle Wiley: Awesome. I’m going to tell my kids about that when we sit down at dinner later. I’m going to remind them how important it is.
Erica Alioto: Do they have Grammarly?
Danielle Wiley: They do. They do. They both have the paid … Yep.
Erica Alioto: Thank you. Awesome.
Danielle Wiley: I think some of it’s because of fear of me because I edit, I do a final review of a lot of their essays, and I feel like they’re like, “I can’t have these basic errors. It’s one thing if she’s just helping it make it sound a little bit better. But if I have the wrong pronoun, if I am missing an Oxford comma.”
Erica Alioto: You’re an Oxford comma person. I am also.
Danielle Wiley: But Grammarly will always catch that.
Erica Alioto: Well, you can turn it on or off, so you can choose.
Danielle Wiley: Oh, mine’s on.
Erica Alioto: Oxford comma on or off. But yes, I’m also an Oxford comma person. But there’s a big divide between those who are and those who aren’t.
Danielle Wiley: Yep. Yep. So just a fun question that we ask everyone at the end of the podcast. I’m just curious to know what the last thing was that you were influenced to buy, read, watch, listen to. You don’t have to tell me all of those, just something you were influenced to do or buy.
Erica Alioto: There are lots of them, but I did just finish a book called Irresistible by Josh Bersin, and it’s about how we can organize and work differently. And I was at a conference actually where he was speaking and picked up a copy of the book, and it’s been enlightening to hear about how companies are doing things differently and different ideas for organizing teams and thinking differently about engagement. It’s just been really eye opening for me.
Danielle Wiley: Love it. We are going to link to that in our show notes so other people can grab it too. So thank you for that. Well, this was wonderful. Thank you again for coming on. I loved chatting with you and have lots of tips to take back into my workplace, so hopefully our listeners feel the same.
Erica Alioto: Well, thanks so much.
Danielle Wiley: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to share and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring candid conversations that explore the power of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.