Create a Workplace Culture Where People Thrive with Robin Daniels

On this week’s episode of the Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall chats with Robin Daniels about  how to create a workplace culture where employees thrive. Creating an environment where employees thrive is more challenging than ever. Whether your organization is trying to get employees back in the office, or trying to build a sense of community in a virtual or hybrid workplace, you don’t want to miss this episode!

Meet Robin Daniels, Chief Business & Product Officer at Zensai

Robin Daniels is the Chief Business and Product Officer at Zensai, (formerly LMS365), the only AI-powered human success platform focused on learning, performance, and engagement that’s built into Microsoft workplace tools. They help businesses create and deliver effective onboarding, compliance, skills growth, leadership development, deep employee engagement and performance tracking for their employees. 

Robin has 20+ years of executive experience working at top companies, including Matterport, Salesforce, LinkedIn, WeWork, and Box. He played a key role in Matterport and Box’s hyper-growth and eventual public listing and aims to use his decades of growth, marketing, go-to-market, and leadership development experience to make Zensai his third successful IPO.

The Evolution of Workplace Culture and HR

As the episode opens, Jenn and Robin discuss the current state of employee unhappiness. Robin discusses the changes he has seen in the world of HR technology, saying: 

“I’ve noticed few things, you know? The first generation of kind of HR technology or HR philosophy was really around optimizing people for the maximum output of the business. That’s why I think it’s called human resources. 

It’s kind of a very cold term when you think about it, right? Think of people as resources. A lot of it’s about optimizing the throughput of what they do. And also just making sure that we cover the basics, of what they need to be successful. 

Are we paying them? Are they complying with what we need to be complying with? Are they taking their vacation? Are we tracking them? And so on. And I think we realize this is nothing new. 

I think we realized maybe 15 or 20 years ago that this is not enough for the next generation of workers coming into the workforce. We want to make them happier and more successful. We need to change the culture around it. So we thought, well, let’s change the name. Change it from human resources to people and culture.

So now many companies have a people and culture department. And we thought, well, okay, that’s going to change everything by changing its name. Part of that was, oh, let’s also make the office a great place to work with Fussball, free food and snacks and ping-pong tables. 

And you know what? I think it helped somewhat because it at least made you wanna at least come to the office because it wasn’t soulless anymore. And maybe it felt more like a group of people, a tribe of people, a comradery, maybe even a family. 

And it made you maybe feel like you belonged a little bit more. So I think it, it helped, you know, and I was honestly part of that movement when I was at WeWork. I was the chief marketing officer there and trying to say that at an office where people gathered together, it doesn’t have to be sold.” 

Why Are Employees So Unhappy? 

Later in the episode, Robin and Jenn discuss the elements of employee engagement, and what actually creates a positive workplace culture.  Robin explains that he began to realize that there was more to employee happiness than cool office perks: 

“So, let’s get the best out of people by giving them a space where they can thrive. But I think we realized here in 2024 that that’s not really actually solving the root cause of the problem. If you look at pretty much all the data, the root cause is that, like you said, most people are unhappy or they want to quit. 

And if you look at the reasons why, it’s usually because nobody invests in them. They don’t feel like they’re going anywhere in their life or their career. They don’t see any purpose in what they’re doing. Um, and they feel kind of stuck. 

And so when, when you, when you, you dig that well, is a better office space going to solve some of those problems? Probably not, right? I mean, that they’re kind of plastering over the surface of what makes people seem unhappy on the surface.

But if the root cause is that you feel stuck in your life, then free kombucha on tap is not going to help. So we have to address the root, root cause. And it’s one of, the reasons why I’ve created this framework.  

Because the question I would get most as a leader–  I’ve hired hundreds of people, and led thousands of people–  is how do I get ahead? And when people don’t feel like they get a clear answer to that, that’s when you start feeling disengaged or stuck or unhappy. And I started noticing that there are really kind of three, three core elements to it.”

Then Robin shares the three core elements of employee engagement: 

  • Clarity around their role’s greater purpose
  • A path to career growth
  • A sense of belonging

How Leaders Can Build Better Organizational Cultures

Jenn and Robin also delve into some practical strategies for leaders to improve the employee experience. Robin shares that a building positive work culture should be a priority of every leadership team: 

“So just, again, if life was easy and there were easy answers, everyone would be doing it. Basically, I think it’s about leadership. It’s about culture, it’s about accountability. It’s about the values that you have. It’s around using the right processes and also using the right technology and platforms. 

And this is where Zensai comes in as a business. But I’m under no illusion that, oh, if you use our platform, it’s going to solve everything magically. It’s only part of it, right? It’s part of driving deeper employee engagement, giving people purpose and happiness by giving them clarity, goals, and the opportunity to learn the right skills. Those are all important, but honestly, it requires a lot more than that.

It requires leadership to lean in, having clarity around what you’re trying to achieve, having clarity around how you measure people’s use of the values that I go around to these companies. Every company, I’m sure you’ve seen this all the time, has values that they care about here on top five values and accountability and trust and get done and all that kind of stuff. And then what I usually ask, well, how are you holding people accountable to them to make sure that they matter? Uh, I don’t know. They kind of shrugged their shoulder.”

Where to Find Out More About Robin Daniels and Zensai

Be sure to listen to the full episode to get Jenn and Robin’s insights into preventing a toxic workplace culture by taking a fresh look at your recognition programs. To find more from Robin, or to learn more about Zensai, connect with him here: 

Does Your Leadership Team Have the Skills to Build a Workplace Culture Where People Thrive?

As always, thanks for listening to The Leadership Habit Podcast!  If your organization struggles with employee engagement, Crestcom can help! Contact us today to schedule a free 2-hour leadership workshop for your whole team! Visit to find out more!