The Next Big Question

Episode 22
Hosted by: Braeden Fair and Liz Ramey

Eddy Wagoner

Executive Director, Digital CIO

JLL

Edward “Eddy” Wagoner is currently Executive Director and Digital CIO at JLL, where he has held senior leadership roles in technology for 26 years. JLL is one of the world's largest and most diverse real estate investment management firms.

What Role Does the C-Suite Have in Sustainability?


AUGUST 15, 2022

This time on The Next Big Question, Executive Director and Digital CIO Eddy Wagoner of JLL joins the podcast to talk about how C-level leaders and organizations can address sustainability and other global concerns. Wagoner shares examples of ways to collaborate across the C-suite on global issues and discusses why focusing on sustainability is necessary to grow, attract talent and remain competitive. As Wagoner explains, businesses are constantly trying to become better and faster and improve how they operate – and it’s no different when it comes to sustainability initiatives.

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Liz Ramey (00:13):

Welcome to The Next Big Question, a podcast with senior business leaders sharing their vision for tomorrow, brought to you by Evanta, a Gartner company.

Each episode features a question with C-suite executives about the future of their roles, organizations, and industries. Thanks for listening. I’m your host, Liz Ramey.

Now, let’s hear what today’s Next Big Question is. On this episode of The Next Big Question, my co-host is Braeden Fair. Braeden is a Content Manager here at Evanta, specializing in CIO content. 

Braeden and I are speaking with Eddy Wagoner, the CIO at JLL, as he answers the question, “How should executives tackle global issues, like sustainability?” As Gartner notes in this year’s CEO Survey, sustainability has become increasingly more important to the enterprise.

So, what actions and strategies should C-level executives take to move through this journey of becoming more sustainable? Let’s hear what Eddy has to bring to the table.

Liz Ramey (01:23):

Eddy Wagoner. Welcome to The Next Big Question. 

Eddy Wagoner (01:25):

Thank you. Very happy to be here. 

Liz Ramey (01:27):

We're happy to have you. 

Braeden Fair (01:28):

Yeah, Eddy, you know, before we get started with our conversation, you know, talking about sustainability, we really just want to know how you got to where you're at -- CIO of JLL, tell us about a little bit about your journey. 

Eddy Wagoner (01:39):

The journey has been one of those bumpy roads and I'm at a destination that I didn't originally plan to be at, truth be told. I started out with an accounting degree, got into auditing, which about a week into the job I realized I can't do this for the next 40 years. Fortunately, I was auditing a real estate client, and it was the first year that Pete Marwick had introduced audit software. So, I got a bit of a double dose of what would define the rest of my career – real estate and technology. As real estate started leveraging technology more, I ended up having the ability to explain how we would use technology and make it non-threatening to people in the real estate industry. That, let's face it, we built the Empire State Building without laptops. And so, if we fast forward to today, it's leveraging what I've what I've learned and what I know, working with a who's who of the world's organizations to help us take the next steps, especially as we're talking about the future of work after the pandemic and how the use of technology and data, especially around workplace, has accelerated post-pandemic. So, it's a great time to be in my role, to be in the industry and to be working with technology. 

Liz Ramey (02:53):

That's fantastic. And we're excited to talk to you today about this kind of concept and the practice of sustainability. So, we're answering this question, ‘How should executives, like yourself, tackle global issues such as sustainability?’ And I wanted to open up the conversation talking about you individually before we get into the organization's responsibility. But, I would love to hear your thoughts around what the real challenge is when we are talking about sustainability and your role as an executive of solving that challenge. 

Eddy Wagoner (03:38):

Well, you know, I think, you know, if we take my role, which is a CIO role, and we think about sustainability -- typically and traditionally, that's been around, you know, maybe data centers and the power consumption there and how to make sure that we're, you know, approaching that from the right way. And quite often it was from a cost containment perspective from our corporations versus a maybe do-the-right-thing perspective. I think, too, quite often we've thought about sustainability from our world view or our role requirement in our corporations, and I think we need to think more broadly. 

I know I've had to learn to think a lot more broadly because what I'm realizing is the impact I can have when I collaborate with others in the organization or when I work with clients, is much bigger and better together than what I thought I could do individually. So, that would probably be the one takeaway that I would give. Anybody that's listening to this, you need to think more broadly, and you need to look to collaborate with others that are in C-suite positions around you to figure out what's the right approach for sustainability and what should you and your company be doing?

Braeden Fair (04:47):

Yeah, I'll actually – it's a great lead in to my next question for you, which is going back to the individual side of things, and maybe, maybe if this might be your opinion, but how should C-level executives approach sustainability, not even just from your position of information technology, but, you know, to a CHRO to a CMO, across the C-suite? What do you think is the approach for that? 

Eddy Wagoner (05:10):

Well, and it's a great question… I'll go back to the ‘think more broadly’ and ‘collaborate more broadly’ within your organizations. You know what, talent is telling us that they want more sustainable practices, that they want to know that the companies they're working with are actually taking care of the planet. So, your CHRO, you're head of human resources, is looking at that from a talent attraction and retention standpoint. It's huge when we talk to HR teams. Let's go to your COO. They're very focused on operational resiliency. And so being sustainable very much has a big play in your resiliency. Let's go to business leaders. You know, if you're responsible for a P&L line in your company, your customers are expecting it. You see that right now. Think about the deliveries that you have made to your house. Look at how those companies are telling you about their sustainable practices because people will make buying decisions based on their perception of whether one company is more sustainable than another. I think we're going to see more of that as we go forward. 

Let's go to the CFO. We say they're always focused on cost containment. It's no different here. They're focused on financial risk. If you read the World Economic Foundation report and JLL's own research, we're predicting that assets that don't focus on sustainability are going to have what we call ‘the brown discount.’ That those are most sustainable will have a better value. So, there's a real financial risk to companies for the spaces that they're in if they're not sustainable. Stick with me as the CIO, there are huge tech and data opportunities to enable that, to measure that, to manage that. And I think in the not too distant future, we're going to be reporting on it. And if you think about everything that I said, imagine the power if you put all those people in the room working together on sustainable initiatives that met all of their objectives. 

Liz Ramey (07:03):

You raise some interesting points, and especially as you're looking at these individual C-level executives, right. It seems like your approach with utilizing the technology and processes that are available to you to help with sustainability is in alignment with the pressures that the CHRO is getting from employees wanting to be a part of organizations that are sustainable. It's also in alignment with the COO wanting to build a more resilient enterprise. What I am wondering, though, is how it conflicts with the CFO’s, you know, need for cost containment. You've said that they're having to look at it as real value and that these more sustainable purchases and investments are the way to go. But how do you if you're in an organization where the CFO is not there yet and all they see is a big-ticket price, how do you, as a CIO, influence that decision? 

Eddy Wagoner (08:08):

You know, CFOs, they do, they get a bad rap for always focusing on costs, but they're also focused on the growth of the company and, you know, reporting all sides of the financial statements. And if I focus first on the positive, and as I mentioned earlier, people are looking for companies that are sustainable when they make their purchases. We're seeing that increase dramatically. We're seeing increases in investor interest. And so, for the CFO, that's a big part of their role, is reporting out results, reporting on growth. They want to see growth. And so, as we are creating sustainable practices, sustainable products, taking care of our planet, that's going to attract clients. It's also going to attract the employees that we talked about. And if you think about turnover, that's a big cost. So, if we can minimize turnover, attract top talent, that's going to make a CFO happy. 

And there is a cost containment part. You know, if I'm using IOT sensors, as an example, to detect that people aren't using a space, and so we can reduce energy consumption. Or let's take those IOT sensors, and I can start determining, especially with flexible work policies, that people don't tend to come into the office on a certain day or during a certain time. So maybe we consolidate usage down to one floor instead of opening all floors. Those are sustainable practices, but they're also efficiency practices. Now, sometimes you'll need to make an investment. Using technology to create more efficiency – let’s take the HVAC systems in buildings. If I can transition that to a turn-tide motor, as an example, drive efficiencies, drive cost saves, I may have to show the CFO that we've got to make an upfront investment, but I can show the ROI so I can show my payback. But I can also show those other business benefits, too. And so, I think, you know, again, it's an opportunity to collaborate, to talk and to help people understand so that you can work together to deliver on some of these initiatives.

Braeden Fair (10:02):

Yeah, you know, I don't mean to go a totally different direction, but one word I keep hearing you say, and we're kind of talking about this at the root of everything that maybe you're focusing on is people. And I've heard you speak about this in your presentations before. JLL, if you will, it's people, not buildings, right? That's a phrase I've heard you mentioned before, so I really like to kind of get your take on that. What do you mean when you say ‘people, not buildings,’ when it comes to this sustainability conversation? Because we can talk about technology, and like you mentioned, the ROI and cost containment, but it does come down to the people that are involved, whether it's that leadership, the people that are in your buildings. I mean, this is a big company that you're with, right. And you have a lot of different touchpoints with them. So just dive into that for me, if you don't mind.

Eddy Wagoner (10:46):

If you think about why we build buildings… And by the way, a lot of people think about JLL as being office buildings. I will tell you, look out your window no matter where you are, and any building you see that's not a single family home, you know, whether it's a hospital, manufacturing, industrial, your grocery store, of course your office building, universities -- those are all buildings that JLL provides services to, can enable technology for. If you think about the purpose for every one of those buildings, there is no purpose if there aren't people. 

If you don't have people that use an office building, there's no reason for it. If nobody wants to go to a hotel, the hotel is going to close. It's not going to sit there empty. Think about everything that you do. Part of the built environment is involved. Even those buildings that may not have people in them, like, say, a data center that's got a very small number of people in there, every single one of us still needs that building for the things that we're doing through technology or through the Internet. So, you really don't have a need for buildings without the people that use the goods and services that are created and delivered through those structures. So, that's why I think understanding people and what they want is critical and foundational to what we do in the built environment.

Liz Ramey (12:04):

So, at JLL, it seems like you're in a position where you can very easily influence and affect sustainability. And you can be an enterprise that impacts this idea of sustainability. I think I would say, you know, manufacturing organizations, it's the same thing, right? What about organizations that don't have as big of a footprint, but want to approach sustainability and really influence the overall global impact of climate change and things like that? 

Eddy Wagoner (12:42):

It's a great question. You talked about the impact I could have. It didn't start with me. It started with our leadership. Our CEO and our board actually took a leadership position. We also have named executives that are fully focused on sustainability. So, I think that's the first lesson for everyone – is take a leadership position, and if it can start from the top, that can drive real change. We all have day jobs, and we all need to be thinking about this. But if you can find someone in your organization that can make that a part of their key job, to make sure that all of us are, you know, learning new things as they come out, that we're up to date on the latest activities, that we're thinking and collaborating, like I like I mentioned earlier. I think that's something that everyone can do. Look, you mentioned smaller organizations. The number of small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. dwarf, you know, the big public companies that we always talk about. And so, while they may have a little footprint, their impact is massive. 

If you think about those smaller companies you mentioned, they're probably buying goods and services from the larger companies. That means that they're a client. That means that they can demand sustainability from their suppliers. They're probably going to get the same thing from their customers. They need to keep up to speed with what their clients are demanding and asking for and then also the talent. You know, we're all in a battle for the same talent. And so, as we're seeing that the younger generation is demanding more of an accountability around sustainability with the companies that they choose to work for. Well, that means that the smaller and medium sized businesses are also going to have those same talent battles. And so, in some ways, it doesn't matter your size, you can still have a big impact. 

Braeden Fair (14:25):

You know, continuing on with just focusing on the organization. You know, there's a lot of pragmatic approaches and reasons to why sustainability is important, right. Obviously, the number one climate change and being, you know, really aware of everything going on in that realm. But that brings about the socio-political battle. And many times that happens with the company. What lines should be drawn when it comes to a company's role in that whenever it's like approaching sustainability, but also, you know, maybe the marketing approach or whatever that might be, while also still trying to focus on growth and growing in their industry and having, you know, a profitable business. 

Eddy Wagoner (15:04):

You know, if you think about the business world, you can't focus on your own growth and your own industry without focusing on sustainability. Talent is demanding it. If the younger people coming into the workforce are saying that, I want to know that what we're doing is contributing to the health of the planet. Then, from a growth perspective, you're going to have to focus on it for your talent. I mentioned earlier – customers and investors are demanding it. I've got a statistic that 83% of occupiers, 78% of investors view climate risk as a financial risk. And so, if you look at it from that perspective, it's going to become table stakes that you focus on sustainability. And then I mentioned future reporting requirements are probably going to require it. So, in some ways, you know, we can have a social or political discussion outside of this. From a business perspective, everything I just outlined is giving you reasons that from a business perspective, you're going to have to focus on sustainability if you want to grow, if you want to remain competitive, if you want to attract talent. 

Liz Ramey (16:11):

Yes, I was thinking about the reporting needs right now. And, you know, I didn't realize there's really no universal standard that exists right now on reporting, at least your progress of becoming a more sustainable enterprise, is there? 

Eddy Wagoner (16:27):

No, and the U.S. Congress just has been debating a law, and I think one on one side of Congress passed it. We'll see if it actually makes it into law. But that's telling you progress is coming. Regulation is coming. We're already hearing from some of the regulatory bodies that they want to see reporting. We're already seeing from some of the big, major investors that they expect the reporting. But if it becomes a public company financial reporting requirement, that's going to require collaboration across your entire C-suite to figure out how to do the right reporting. And it will require some fundamental changes potentially in operations. That's why I think now is the time for people to start thinking about and talking about it because it's the right thing to do. But in the not-too-distant future, it's going to be the required ‘to do.’

Liz Ramey (17:18):

And how do you set yourself up as an organization – we’ll start, you know, kind of broadening our view right now of the enterprise and the organization's responsibility. But I think of, you know, government regulations are often a roller coaster depending on who's in charge, who's in the White House. So, we're making progress right now where we have a more progressive administration happening. So, I could see those regulations taking place maybe in the next few years. But what happens if there's a shift back, right? And we don't have a progressive administration. How do organizations set themselves up to be agile enough to shift with the regulations but also make a stand on what's important to them? 

Eddy Wagoner (18:08):

So, I don't know if you intended to do this, but you set me up for the perfect commercial for JLL. So stick with me for a minute. This is a perfect example of why you should partner and not try to do this on your own, just like all of us partner with, you know, cloud providers or cybersecurity providers to get the best help for some of the emerging requirements that we're all dealing with. I think in this area it's another perfect opportunity. JLL is a global organization. And so, the requirements can vary between countries. The requirements can vary among industries. And so, working with a partner that has that exposure that can share with you, here's what you're going to be dealing with right now in your locality. But here's some best practices from somewhere else in the world that you might want to incorporate or that we believe is a year or two out from maybe being a requirement in your locality. I think that can help people think about things the right way, make the best decisions for their companies, but also keep up with and understand what their competitors are doing and thinking. 

Braeden Fair (19:09):

I've heard you speak about the technology so much within JLL and also just your opinion on where tech can be involved in this. So, I'd like to kind of go deeper into that with your experience and as a CIO at JLL, what is your company, what is JLL doing to employ technology to become more sustainable? You know, especially I know it's specific with real estate and with buildings and whatnot that that can be kind of industry specific. But I still think it's, it's some pretty amazing stuff that I've heard you speak on. 

Eddy Wagoner (19:39):

It's so different from, you know, like I said when I started, and real estate people have done incredible things before the Internet, before laptops. And so, it's about how do we do things better and faster, how do we leverage data in ways that we never have before? And so, that's a bit of a constant theme with all of the trends, including sustainability. I could use info grid or verge sense to track the utilization in the space so that I can make the space more efficient, I can decrease my energy cost, I can maybe even optimize portfolios and optimize footprints for companies. I mentioned turn tide and the ability to, you know, use motors differently and save energy from that perspective. At JLL, we've got a software called Canopy, where we help clients understand their energy consumption so that they can make better, smarter, efficient decisions around that. You know, but it goes beyond that. You're making all these changes in the workplace. And remember, I keep saying people are important. How do you communicate that to the people, and how do you help them understand what you're doing so that they can leverage that for a better experience in the workplace? That's where you're seeing experience apps come into the workplace. 

There's a focus on communication, and then I'll stop talking about use with this last example. It's thinking about how we use and think about space broader than we ever have in the real estate industry. So, your experience when you go into the office, what you as a person experience is broader than what we in real estate have typically focused on, whether that is the needs that you have in the office, who you request from it, the food that you may want to have delivered into the office. All of that has an opportunity around experience and sustainability. Talked about investing in tech. And that's not just from a CIO's perspective of licensing tech. We actually have put our money where our mouth is by setting up a venture capital fund that's wholly owned by JLL called JLL SPARK. 

We're making investments in emerging prop tech that benefits all of those examples that I just gave, and sustainability is a big pillar in that investment fund as we look for emerging proptech that we believe will make a big difference in our world from a sustainability perspective. So I said use, I said invest, and then I said help. I mentioned partnering earlier, sharing that expertise with others as they go on their journey. But there's also the learnings that you get back from all of those different industries and different use cases that you can then share with others. Because while there are some competitive advantages to focusing on sustainability, if we're going to create a better world for all of us, that also means that we need to be open to sharing some of our lessons learned and the technologies and the capabilities with everybody around us. So, I think those are the three areas that I'm especially proud to see JLL focus on in all of those areas – focus our learning, bring in new talent, but also help our clients, our prospective clients and our industry. It's a part of our foundation.

Liz Ramey (22:53):

I had written down a question to ask you about, you know, technology is kind of what's gotten us to the place where we're seeing climate change and the impact of industry. And I had written down ‘technology got us here, how is it going to get us out?’ But I think what I'm hearing from you is actually tech. If technology got us here, how is information going to get us out? It's the data piece, the information, the sharing of information, the use of information, just like you said, that's really going to help us progress through this and be better. 

Eddy Wagoner (23:34):

So, I know what you're saying about technology got us here. And as I was listening to your question, this is a little bit of ad-libbing here, but I'm thinking, was it really technology that got us here? Or, was it we as people maybe not using technology as smart as we should have or maybe taking the long view point? I remember as a child, my dad telling me, take care of your toys because I'm not buying you another one. And it's kind of that life lesson about – take care of what you've got because you can't have another one. And what's more appropriate than the planet or our air or our water – take care of it because it's not like we can, you know, go get another one. So, I think it does come back a lot to the people perspective. You know, as a technologist, I still think there's great things about technology. There's great things that can enable it. But we also need to use it in a responsible way, whether it's the number of hours that I spend online or whether it's how I'm using technology to be more sustainable. 

Braeden Fair (24:29):

Well, when you're saying that, and, you know, there's so much benefit for focusing on this, and I try not to put my tinfoil hat on here when I ask this question here. But I can’t help but think, you know, out of all the pros of focusing on sustainability and how we can make the planet a better place, there is going to be a competitive advantage of, you know, one organization going against another and trying to be more sustainable or trying to focus a little bit how it's going to benefit their bottom line. I say all that to basically ask you, have you seen roadblocks along the way? When someone is focusing on this so often with companies that may not be as willing to share information or, you know, take a different approach to it. Have you seen that or is that something that you maybe anticipate could happen? 

Eddy Wagoner (25:16):

Oh, absolutely see it. You know, and it's not it's not the sustainability challenge. It's the age-old change challenge. We as humans do not like change. We like to say we do. But the reality is, you know, we like to know what to expect. Something that is a radical change to what's maybe always made us successful, or maybe it's a new concept that's scary, or maybe it's causing us to completely change the way we operate. That's change. That's classic change management. And if you think about everything we've learned about what will make change management successful and where it fails, I think those same lessons will apply as we focus on how to create more sustainable practices in our companies and our buildings in the world around us.

But you're right, ultimately there will be some companies that will do some things better and faster. They will get some competitive advantage. You can probably see that now – I keep using delivery companies, but there's a reason so many of them are touting their sustainable practices, whether it's through more sustainable delivery practices or their fuel consumption. It's because there are people that are making buying decisions because of that. As more of that happens, that will in fact move the market. You'll either figure out how you put those practices in place to stay competitive, or your competitors are going to take your clients away from you potentially. So, I think, you know, if I were to make a provocative statement, everybody listening and everybody not listening is going to deal with sustainability at some point. You don't have a choice in that. Your choice is, are you going to start thinking about it now to do the right thing and to get competitive advantage? Are you going to wait until the market forces you to do it? 

Liz Ramey (26:58):

Interesting. And I have to, you know, step back to that, your statement about people and, you know, people getting us to where we are instead of technology. And I think you're right. And I think it actually falls nicely along the lines of this theme that I'm hearing from you. And that is broadening the way we think, broadening the way we interact with people, collaborate with people, which is so important in this kind of era where we do need to make progress. We do need to make changes, fairly quickly, if we are going to build a more sustainable world. So, I like that. I do want to ask, as we're thinking about this, as we're thinking about each generation getting smarter, broadening their minds in the way they think based on the you know, their reflection of history and what we've learned. Where do these upcoming kind of generations, where do they play a role in this conversation? 

Eddy Wagoner (28:05):

You know, Liz, if I could solve the generational divide in the workplace today, I would become very, very wealthy in a very short period of time. You know, it's… I think back to when I started my career, which was the mid-eighties. And I remember a manager where I thought, ‘God, he is so old school. How's he surviving? I never want to be like him.’ You know, he didn't survive as long as he did not having some smarts about him. So, I think the challenge for all of us -- and it's not just generational, it's the whole, you know, DEI conversation, how do we figure out a way to include a diverse set of opinions and work together to create better solutions? 

Your question reminds me, I was part of a study that a third-party group did. It was a variety of C-suite executives across a number of corporations. And they didn't tell us that a bunch of psychologists and others were going to be monitoring these tests they were putting us through. They were testing us, saying it was going to be about our cognitive ability. What we didn't know, what they couldn't tell us is they were actually testing to see about diversity of opinion. And they had a thesis that if you had a diverse group together, that they would come up with a better solution. They actually proved that theory, but what shocked them was that diversity of age actually produced better solutions than all the other groups put together. Diversity was more important than non-diversity, but diversity of age actually was judged by the people reviewing the solutions as better solutions. 

And so, if I think about that, figuring out how to incorporate the viewpoints across the people who have been in the workforce, the Boomers, for years, and have that wealth of experience about how we got to where we are and probably some viewpoints on things we need to do, coupled with the new energy and the different way of thinking and working and maybe not burdened with things we did in the past of, you know, Gen Z coming into the workplace. Putting those two together will create better solutions for all of our companies. And again, I don't think there's a one- size-fits-all. It's just getting the people in the room to have the conversation, not unlike what I talked about earlier about the different C-suite executives getting together to talk from their viewpoint. If we can do that at the C-suite level, I don't know why we can't figure out a way to do it with our people on the generational level to create some of these solutions. 

Braeden Fair (30:34):

So, Eddie, you and I were talking about this before we got on to record the podcast, this idea of a marketing approach to this entire conversation. Do you feel like companies are taking more of that approach to speaking about their involvement and sustainability, trying to make sure that they're staying in the conversation? I feel like that's probably a yes, but is that good enough and should we be doing more when taking that approach? 

Eddy Wagoner (30:59):

So, it's not good enough and we should be doing more. So, the company that's just coming out now with their marketing approach of saying we need to be more sustainable or here's some things we need to do. I don't think that's bad. That's part of the communication process. And if I even look at JLL, we said that we recognized that the built environment had a bigger carbon impact on the world than things you normally think of, like energy and transportation. And we knew that we needed to do things to create a better tomorrow for all of us. When we first made that statement, we didn't have all of our programs figured out. We hadn't made the investments in technology. We made that stake in the ground. 

Now, I think after people do that, you've heard the old saying, your walk-talk is louder than your talk-talk. So, I think it's, you know, check out what we said we're going to do and then check to see if we're doing it. And, you know, I'll give you an example. We just announced this, so you're probably some of the first to hear this. We just created an entity called JLL Foundation, that's a nonprofit dedicated to making long-term impacts on environmental sustainability. Basically, JLL is going to make interest-free loans to companies that are working on sustainability, and some of these aren't in the traditional real estate environment, if you will. We just made an investment in a company called Babylon Gardens out of Greece that's creating retrofitted green roofs and walls, a company out of Puerto Rico and Mexico called Carbon Wave that's using seaweed to create products, eliminate microplastic waste and achieve carbon neutrality. 

So, I use that as an example, as well as the JLL Spark Investments I mentioned earlier, where we're putting money into prop techs about how you can look at and evaluate – what are people actually doing. But let me, let me just finish answering the question with this, Braeden, and it's a great question. It's really easy to look outward and criticize everybody else, but it's harder but more impactful to look inward. So, while I can look out and criticize other companies, potentially, I should spend more time looking at what I can do to help JLL. I should look at more of myself and what I can do to have an impact. And I think if all of us would do that, look at what we can do. Just imagine the impact we would all have together in helping us move forward – us, our companies, and our world. 

Liz Ramey (33:20):

Eddy, that brings me to my final question around the organization's kind of responsibility in society today. It seems as if, even in the last few years, there's been a lot more pressure on an enterprise to support their people. And so, there's this responsibility has widened and deepened in the fact that there's demand for organizations to be more empathetic, to care about mental health, to care about sustainability, to care about people's physical health. There's a demand for organizations to take political stances and market these or at least, you know, invest in the right kind of political actions. What do you think your responsibility is as an executive to ensure that you're making the right decisions for the right pressures that are kind of focused on the organization from your customers? 

Eddy Wagoner (34:30):

It's a great question, and I don't know that it's that much different from what we've always been expected to do. You know, we have a responsibility to our corporations and our people. You know, I think the big difference -- if we could go back and ask some of us that started, you know, our careers decades ago or maybe even our parents and grandparents, the types of things people are demanding today are probably what people back then wanted. But the environment was just not such that we could demand healthier workplaces or more sustainability or give me a focus on my mental health. There were just some things that you didn't talk about. 

So, I would say today we're actually more an open conversation. That responsibility has always been there. Just maybe the focus was not there or the conversation was not there. And I think that's the conversation part is the answer to the second part of your question. You know, my whole career has been one where, you know, you don't have to ask me. I'll give you my opinion pretty quickly. I've learned over the last couple of years that listening to the learned experiences of others and understanding their viewpoint and understanding that what I want from the workplace is not exactly what they may want or need, or I may choose to go into the workplace two or three days a week, and for other issues they may want to be in there every day or only one day. And so, understanding what others are looking for and then creating our solutions with that in mind, whether it's our employee base, our client base. I think, you know, talking to people and understanding what they're looking for will help us with our responsibilities, whether it be sustainability, whether it be workplace experience, whether it be the products and services that we create for the people around us. 

Braeden Fair (36:13):

You know, as we come to a close on this conversation, I mean, there's a lot to digest, and we really appreciate you joining us. This is called The Next Big Question podcast. So, in line with that, we always have our previous guest ask the upcoming guest the next big question that they might have on their minds. So, with that being said, in the last episode, we were speaking with Janice Deskus, who is the CHRO at Staples, and she posed the following question for you. And I'll give you a second here, but how can organizations use the lessons from the past couple of years to really shift further away from that bureaucratic, controlled, centered organization to one that's much more adaptive, purpose driven and generally inspiring? I think you probably have a lot to say about this because it's in everything that we've spoken about today. But that was the next big question from Janice Deskus, the CHRO of Staples. So take a stab at it. 

Eddy Wagoner (37:06):

I was going to say, did Janice know that I was following her? Because it's almost like she heard this podcast before she asked the question. I mean, that just tells you it's a great question. And I think, you know, what Janice is asking is what everybody, not just C-suite level, but everybody should be asking, how do we take the lessons we've learned from the pandemic? And I know people want to go back to normalcy, but the definition of normalcy has somewhat changed. So, how do we create our new workplaces of the future? How do we reduce bureaucracy? How do we reduce control-centered organizations if more people are going to be remote or hybrid? 

And you're right, I think a lot of the answers that I gave you around sustainability also work here. It's understanding the human experience of our people in the workplace, as I think so often we look at it from the organization's perspective or from the C-suite, if you will, but if we actually somehow could get inside the experience of our people that are impacted by the bureaucracy and understand what they think and think about how we could adapt it to inspire them, I think that collaboration would actually have some answers that would drop out that may surprise us, may be pretty simple to implement. And I think we’d  also find some change management champions in our populations that would willingly jump in and help us drive the changes to our organizations to be better with what we produce, but also for our people that work with us. 

Liz Ramey (38:37):

Fantastic. Yeah, it's like she predicted what we were going to be talking about today. 

Eddy Wagoner (38:41):

She did. 

Liz Ramey (38:42):

Way to go, Janice. 

Eddy Wagoner (38:44):

And no pressure for me. 

Liz Ramey (38:47):

Right? Right. Well, so Eddy, of course, we want you to set up our next guest with a fabulous question, too. So, what is your Next Big Question that you think executives or enterprises should really be focusing on? 

Eddy Wagoner (39:04):

So, you know, I'm going to take a little bit of inspiration from Janice's question, pay it forward, but also some of the themes that we've been talking about today, because I think a lot of the themes here we focused on sustainability, actually have broad applicability across a lot of the challenges that we have in our organizations. So, here's the question: How are you thinking differently about what you're doing today to create a better tomorrow for the people who work for you at your company, for the people who buy from your company, and for the people who depend on you, your family and friends? What are you doing today to create a better tomorrow? 

Liz Ramey (39:44):

That's a fantastic question. Eddy, we really enjoyed having you here. And I can't wait to hear the next executive who's going to answer that question. But you really enlightened us and made us think about our own roles and our organization's role in sustainability and other really large issues that are only going to help us progress as a society. So thank you so much for talking with us today. 

Eddy Wagoner (40:10):

Thank you for the opportunity. 

Liz Ramey (40:12):

Thank you, again, for listening to The Next Big Question. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen. Rate and review the show, so that we can continue to grow and improve. You can also visit Evanta.com to explore more content and learn about how your peers are tackling questions and challenges every day. Connect, learn, and grow with Evanta, a Gartner Company.


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