Motley Fool senior analyst Jason Moser discusses:
- Why more company CEOs are on the hot seat.
- Expectations heading into a big week for big tech earnings.
- Why the idea that "search is forever" should give Alphabet shareholders comfort.
Producer Ricky Mulvey talks with Jennifer Moss, author of The Burnout Epidemic, about one tech company that's nailing the hybrid transition.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on July 25, 2022.
Chris Hill: Another CEO is out, and we've got a preview of big tech earnings. Motley Fool Money starts now.
I'm Chris Hill, and I'm joined by Motley Fool Senior Analyst Jason Moser. Joining me here in studio, by the way. Good to see you.
Jason Moser: Hey, it's always nice to be in studio.
Chris Hill: You can add Chris Scherzinger to the list of CEOs heading for the exits. Scherzinger has been the CEO of Weber Grill for the past four years. He is out. Chief Technology Officer Alan Matula is going to be the interim CEO at Weber Grill.
You never like to see anyone lose their job, but my first stop when this news broke, Jason, was, oh, this is one of those things we talked about earlier this year. Expect to see more boards of directors keeping a shorter leash on their management teams, and in the case of Scherzinger, you look at the stock performance of Weber Grill. I'm not putting it all on him, it sounds like they're not either, [laughs] but a change had to be made here.
Jason Moser: Yeah. It happens, at least it's not Traeger, and I say this as a very happy Traeger Grill owner. I had the Traeger smoker, I don't own Traeger's stock, but Traeger's shares are down 73% for the year, whereas Weber down about 50% for the year. So it could be worse.
But the bigger problem I think is that when I say it could be worse, that really means actually, Chris, it is going to get worse. If you look at the way the business has been performing, clearly, it run to a lot of headwinds. It's very difficult economic climate for virtually any one trying to sell anything, much less a typically fairly expensive household item like a grill or a smoker or whatever you might be buying from Weber. If you look at the guidance that they have gotten out there just this quarter ending in June, they are pegging sales between $525 and $530 million. Now, that's down from $668 million a year ago.
I think that you look at these companies, Weber, Traeger, these are, again, sort of companies that played into that stay-at-home stock mania that we've witnessed over the past couple of years as we were spending more time at home, cooking at home, and I think a lot of people upgraded. That's great. I understand it. But these are not purchases that you make very frequently.
I don't necessarily put all the fault here on the CEO; it's a very difficult business to run, this kind of a business. It's a large-ticket purchase, and then you're probably not really going out and buying another grill for several years, hopefully. They make these grills really well now. They're very durable, they can last a long, long time. So they've got to figure out a way to go beyond just the grill, and they're selling things like wood pellets, or charcoal, or even potential food plans, recipe ideas and whatnot.
That really hasn't proven out yet. You still need to see over some time whether that actually can develop, and it doesn't look like the rest of the year is especially optimistic. I think they've suspended guidance for the full year fiscal 2022 basically due down certainly.
Now they're not the first ones to do that. But like I said on Twitter, maybe Scherzinger just felt like he was just sick of getting grilled on the calls. [laughs] Seriously, though, it's a very difficult job. I feel like he probably walks out of a job like this with some financial certainty. Maybe he's just happy to be done with it.
Chris Hill: It's possible. The stock at one point was down about 20% this morning, it's bounced back a little bit from that. But as you said, it's down about 50% for the year.
Jason Moser: Yeah.
Chris Hill: I understand anyone who looks at shares how much they've pulled back from when it went public less than a year ago and thinks, well, maybe this time, I would just point you to the comments from the board member who came out as part of this announcement and made it very clear like, look, this is not going to get solved quickly. This is a brand with some equity in it. There is a version of the future where things turn around.
But I think if you're looking at Weber Grill and it's on your watch list, I think you've got to wait and see who the next CEO is. You've got to see who are they bringing in and does he or she have a plan that resonates with you? Maybe then buy a couple of shares of the stock. But right now, everything about this situation to me says "stay away."
Jason Moser: Yeah, I fully agree. I say that just, again, from the perspective of the actual business model itself. I think you're right. They've got tremendous brand equity. They make great products. They have a status in this market. It just is one of those things where, and we've seen this before... good product doesn't always translate into good investment. It's the nature of the product, and you have to take that into consideration as to how a business monetizes that.
It's not to say there aren't ways for them to be able to come up with some more meaningful and recurring monetization down the line, but that is going to be dependent on leadership that takes this role, and there's a lot we just don't know yet. This is a corner that is very difficult to see around. So they're going to have to be very deliberate in the talent that they bring in here, because you got to be able to paint that picture, going forward, of how you take this business to the next level. Because again, great product, but that doesn't always translate into a good investment.
Chris Hill: We're in earnings season, and you never want to focus too much on any one earnings report for a business. We're long-term investors. So we try not to get hung up on a single earnings report or, for that matter, a single earning season.
Having said that, this seems like a pretty consequential week [laughs] for this particular earnings season, because we're going to get reports from Apple, and Amazon, and Meta Platforms, Shopify among others. How are you feeling? What, if any, expectations do you have about this week?
There is a level of trepidation that I'm feeling personally, and I take comfort in the fact that I see it in others walking gingerly into this earnings season. As Matt Argersinger said on the radio show last week, it's just like "we just don't want to disappoint." Just don't disappoint us too much [laughs] and we'll bid your stock up. It feels that way, although, look, some companies are just more important than others by virtue of their size. That's why I'm feeling a little bit of trepidation, particularly in the case of the big three: Apple, Amazon, and Meta Platforms.
Jason Moser: Yeah. It is obviously a very big quarter here, and it did seem like last quarter, no matter what a company reported, the market just wasn't having any of it. It's obviously been a very difficult year for investors, but you're looking at, what you got? Google tomorrow, on Tuesday. You got Meta on Wednesday. You got Amazon on Thursday. I think we're going to get an interesting look into the advertising market with all three of those businesses, actually.
Starting with Google, you look at Google revenue last year in the quarter, they're getting ready to announce $61.8 billion. Estimates this quarter just a tad under $70 billion. There's still a projection there that the company will be growing. Now, it remains to be seen whether they hit that or not.
But I think it's more noteworthy what Meta's going through right now. And this is a company that has really pivoted in its direction, and I don't know that it's necessarily going to work out. The metaverse is still something that really is not fully understandable by a lot of people on exactly how they're going to be able to monetize it. Is it something that the masses are going to buy into? What I think is really fascinating, you look at Meta in Q2 a year ago, they recorded revenue just north of $29 billion. The business is actually forecasted to contract this quarter, so it's actually going to shrink.
Now, they may surprise to the upside there, but the point remains, this is a business that's in transition, and growth has stalled, of course, and I think part of that has to do with this conscious transition they're making, this pivot into this metaverse idea, but it's also a very competitive industry.
We saw Snap, last week, report a quarter, the market was just having none of it. Growth slows down to 13%, guidance suspended. They can't see what's coming down the pike here.
I look at this market, I look at something like a Google versus a Meta and Snap and whatever else, TikTok, to me, I'd like to say that social is fleeting, but search is forever. I think that really holds true. Social faces these ongoing competitive pressures of people flocking to the next social platform. Today, it's TikTok. People are losing interest in Facebook, they're using Instagram more, but now they're losing in interest in Instagram, and they're flocking to TikTok. Something's going to come after TikTok. I don't know what it is, but it's going to be something. So it remains to be seen there.
Now, I think with search and what Google is doing, search is far more resilient because it's so much more essential. We just need search, and what necessarily disrupts search? I'm just not so sure. I don't know that that's necessarily as easy a hurdle to clear. So I like a business in this environment like Google far more than something like a Meta for all of those reasons right there.
Then Amazon, of course, building out its advertising business as well, which I think is operating on a $30-plus-billion run rate now, which is pretty fascinating. That's just a business with so many different moving parts and ways to make money, and now you're seeing that this is a nice little ad business that they've built there. But to me, it's going to be just fascinating.
Given the sentiment of mobile advertising market right now, it is obviously as low as it could be. I feel like maybe it's a little too low. I look at a business like Google in this environment, I think when you get a business like that trading south of a 20 earnings multiple, man, it just seems like that's a very shortsighted take on a business like that.
Chris Hill: It's going to be interesting to hear the Amazon call when you think about questions around Prime Day, the recent acquisition of One Health. It seems like, in terms of clues to the future, that, to me, is the call that I'm the most curious to see the results of.
Jason Moser: It definitely feels like you know more of what you're getting with a Meta and a Google versus an Amazon that is continually dipping its toe in all of these different waters and trying new things out. Whether it's retail, cloud, healthcare, and grocery, just a million different ways for that business to go. I think they're still really trying to figure out how to piece those puzzle pieces together.
Chris Hill: Is there a place where I can place a bet on the use of the word "only" [laughs] as it relates to Apple's earnings? I'm just imagining. It's such a big company, they put up such huge numbers quarter after quarter, and I feel like this is one of those quarters where the word "only" is going to get applied to some sum of money that is tens of billions of dollars.
Jason Moser: I tell you, Chris, the big focus out there on sports betting, man, you cannot let earnings season betting slip under the radar, because it just becomes more and more entertaining every quarter.
Chris Hill: Jason Moser, thanks so much for being here.
Jason Moser: Thank you. ...
Chris Hill: Mark Zuckerberg is raising expectations and hoping some of his employees self-select out of the company. One burnout expert sounds the alarm on Meta platforms and discusses as a tech company that's nailing the hybrid transition. Ricky Mulvey has more.
Ricky Mulvey: Feeling burned out? Well, that's not only a problem for you, but some of the companies you own as well. Joining us now is Jennifer Moss. She is the author of the book The Burnout Epidemic and a Harvard Business Review contributor. Welcome, Jennifer.
Jennifer Moss: Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to this.
Ricky Mulvey: In a recent Harvard Business Review article, you wrote that "54% of workers left a previous job because their boss wasn't empathetic to their struggles at work, and 49% said employers were unsympathetic to their personal lives. This business-as-usual mentality caused a ripple effect that some experts believe may have contributed to the Great Resignation." How are you seeing the social contract with work? Or how has it changed over the course of the pandemic? And how is it continuing to change in your view?
Jennifer Moss: This has been an evolving topic of interest. For me, I've been writing for HBR on the topic of burnout, researching it prepandemic, started writing the book before the pandemic. So there is a lot to be discussed. But what happens in these types of crises is it tends to exacerbate issues that are just boiling up.
What we used to see, and this would be a few decades ago -- and this is pretechnology. Technology played a big role in creating this sort of always-on culture of work. So employers were asking more of employees to be working inside of work hours but at home. So this slow trickle-down of work being consumed 24 hours a day, this integration of life, made it so that employees said, well, if you're going to ask me to work at home and to integrate my whole life and to work, well, I expect different things of you.
What happened in the pandemic was that employers just felt like this is business as usual. They had the same demands, even higher demands. There were still growth expectations. As soon as we saw that one metric, that productivity was the same during COVID, working remote, it was like this big false measure, whereas people were working three more hours a day or 30% more of their day to hit those pre-COVID goals.
What's happening now is employees are saying, you know what? I'm not going to face my mortality for the last two years for a job that doesn't care at all about my mental health and well-being, and I am done.
It used to be that life was transactional and your relationship was transactional between employers and employees, but that's no longer the case. If employers are going to demand so much for their employees and to have them integrate their work and life so much, then there has to be more concern about how that's impacting their life overall.
Ricky Mulvey: Flexibility can be a double-edged sword, and workload seems to be almost a larger key than just hours at the desk.
One company that seemed to learn some lessons about workload for their employees was the company Okta, cybersecurity firm. You spoke with the CEO, Todd McKinnon. What did he learn about workload during the pandemic for employees, and what were some of your takeaways for other companies?
Jennifer Moss: I love that conversation with him because he was really demonstrating empathy. He got it, and he was measuring, he was gathering data and looking at the data. Because so often, we see our high performers going above and beyond, and we think that that's a really great thing to celebrate, but we're not checking in to see, are they still working at midnight every night? Are they working on weekends? They might seem to express a desire and a love and a passion for their job, but they're still at high risk of burning out.
So what Todd did was he was just analyzing when he gave people time off on Friday. It was supposed to be this meetingless Fridays or a little break where it was like a day off on Friday. He saw that when he did that, his employees would just come back in and work on Saturdays and Sundays to finish the project. What he came to understand is that it isn't about giving people these Fridays off or even just the big headlines of a lot of organizations. We gave a week off to our burnout employees, that's just such a band-aid solution. That's giving ice cream to people that need water.
What Todd is saying is that we need to be upstream. We need to recognize that workload is not sustainable, so how do I reduce workload so that I can give someone a Friday off and they don't need to compensate for that Friday off by working on Saturday and Sunday? That is really that switch.
There's perks and there's optimization for people, then that's about 20% of our global workforce that really does benefit from that. But 80% of our global workforce needs to have more upstream interventions so that they can then actually enjoy a lot of what employers are spending their money on, which is those optimization perks, sort of downstream tactics.
Ricky Mulvey: Not every upstream intervention is helping their employees work less. Putting that in opposition, you've now got Mark Zuckerberg at Meta Platforms writing in an internal memo,
Part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals and just turning up the heat a little bit is that I think some of you might decide that this place isn't for you, and that self-selection is OK with me.
I'd say Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, said something similar-ish in an email to Googlers saying,
Moving forward, we need to be more entrepreneurial, working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than what we've shown on sunnier days. In some cases, that means consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining the process. In other cases, that means pausing development and redeploying resources to higher priority areas.
I'll end the quote there.
What goes through your mind when you're hearing these statements from, in some cases, beaten down tech companies, essentially cracking the whip on employees saying we need to work harder now in this remote-first hybrid environment?
Jennifer Moss: Well, it's frustrating for me as someone who has been sounding the alarm on burnout for a long time. I get that there is a fear that we're going to have some malaise or people are going to ask too much. We've already defined burnout for a long time as this whiny millennial problem --they're just complaining about work-life balance -- which has been so disingenuous and unhelpful.
When you actually look at the definition of burnout, it's institutional stress left unmanaged, and it's showing up in signs like high levels of depletion and exhaustion. We're seeing people feeling like they have no value at work. They're feeling disconnected from their job. They feel like they're no good at what they do anymore. They're uninspired. They feel this high level of cynicism, which, then, cynicism breeds into our communities where we don't see people in that same sort of level of optimism and hopefulness. That is a very dangerous thing.
And there's catastrophic impacts to burnout. It can lead to PTSD. It can lead to chronic illness and anxiety and depression and even suicide. It's not that we can just turn around and say, "Oh, that thing didn't happen. Let's ignore it." There's a massive hangover for people right now. They have been dealing in this macro-stress surge-capacity level. They're experiencing all these different impacts from that. What we're going to see is, yeah, you're going to see people leave.
But I think what we're also going to see is some sort of revolt. I am seeing that when you look at how many people are actually leaving jobs and not going into jobs... We talk about this Great Reshuffling, people are actually leaving and they're taking time off. We're also seeing the highest level of mental health disability claims in the U.S. and Canada right now. So you might think that you're saving money, but really, you're just putting a whole bunch of people in your organization on mental health disability leave.
What you did see from some of these large firms, these firms that you're talking about, their highest-level people, their highest-performing people are exiting the company. It sounds like this is really great for them, but they are losing a massive amount of wisdom and talent and an innovative thinking inside their organization. So all of this downstream ends up being bad financially for organizations overall.
Ricky Mulvey: What are some companies that are handling the hybrid transition in a healthier way, in your view? I know you've done some research on Hewlett Packard.
Jennifer Moss: Here's the thing. I want to backtrack because HP has been doing this work for a while. They went into the pandemic with high resiliency because they were already doing a lot of upstream interventions. They were thinking about more equitable paternity and maternity leave so they didn't see this mass exodus of women. They cared about care leave and family leave and have protections around that. So you didn't have to see that kind of struggle with making choices about staying home and caring for your child or working.
There's these fundamental burnout-prevention mentality around their wellness that made them more effective inside of the pandemic, made their customers happy, but also their employees had high trust scores, trust in leadership, and they felt like their employers, whether they got it right or wrong, had their best interests at heart. You saw less attrition within that organization, but they were doing things, like I said, those fundamentals, equity fairness pieces. They were also moved to a hybrid situation that didn't feel so jarring.
Some companies, all of a sudden, they're remote, and they never had worked remote before and never even considered it. A lot of financial institutions, insurance companies, and others were really hit hard by this transition, but Hewlett Packard wasn't. Even now as we go back, what we're seeing is they're doing things like listening to their employees, which was something they did in the pandemic, too. They had more of this ask-me-anything-style conversation where senior leaders, C-level leaders would go into these conversations every single day for months, and they would have their employees just ask their burning questions of them, which created this certainty.
Now as they're transitioning, they've offered a full hybrid mindset, and their campuses even, they're thinking more around this idea of "This is not life on site." I'm going to give you meals to take home to your family because you've told us that that's more important than us doing your laundry for you on site and making you eat the chef's food here and coming home to your family at 10 o'clock at night.
This is that shift that we need to think of, and the most competitive companies I see and who I've seen, like Unilever and others, are taking on this mindset about listening empathetic and actively listening to what their employees need and then figuring out how to make it mutually beneficial.
Ricky Mulvey: Maybe you're listening to this, maybe you're having a little trouble getting out of bed. You might be feeling cynical, you're feeling burned out. Can't fix the whole problem in a final question of a podcast interview. But what's maybe one or two things you can do as an employee, just as a worker, you're feeling a little burned out, to make today a little bit better?
Jennifer Moss: You're right. It's a systemic issue with lots of root causes. It's not going to be solved overnight. But there are some things that we as individuals can do, and there's certain individuals that are more at risk of burnout: those that have high levels of perfectionism; those that look at their work as their identity; they maybe self-describe as a workaholic. These are all things that are definitely going to lead to burnout.
One of the things that we have to recognize both as leaders and as individual employees is that we've been living in this emergency state for a really long time. By definition, emergencies are unexpected. Now we know what this is. It is still stressful in some environments. We have different protocols around things, but still, we have been living with this macro stress for a long time and it's making us feel like everything is urgent.
Every time we get an email, every time we get a request to do anything, any type of action that is work related and then it's trickling into our life, too, we have to deal with it right away. We have to ask ourselves constantly, "Is this urgent or am I creating false urgencies around this? How do I create some boundaries around what is worth it?" I created this schematic in my life, a priority scale, and I say, "Is this a deathbed regret if I don't do this thing?"
Sometimes it has to get as basic as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, kind of basic level of understanding around what matters. If we're putting false urgencies on things, we're also disconnecting from the things that make us well.
One of the most important things that we need to do is create margins, create space so that we can spend time on things that give us joy and pleasure, like spending time with our friends, being around our family, having dinner with other people, seeing people eye to eye and actually going and having coffee with them in person and reconnecting to that part of our community. All of those things, eventually, if we start to practice them in small, micro habits, will eventually start to feel better.
Ricky Mulvey: Jennifer Moss. She is the author of The Burnout Epidemic. Thank you so much for your time.
Jennifer Moss: It was a real pleasure. Thank you.
Chris Hill: As always, people on the program may have interest in the stocks they talk about and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear.
Chris Hill. thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.