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HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: Lorna Borenstein, Founder & CEO, Grokker
Episode: 321
Air Date: April 5, 2019




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Host: John Sumser, HRExaminer
Guest: Lorna Borenstein, Founder and CEO, Grokker

Full Transcript with timecode

00:00:14:04 – 00:00:15:07
Good morning and welcome HRExaminer’s Executive Conversations, I’m your host John Sumser and today we’re going to be talking with Lorna Borenstein, the Founder, and CEO of Grokker.

00:00:27:04 – 00:00:27:28
How are you this morning?

00:00:28:13 – 00:00:32:16
I am well happy to be on the show with you John.

00:00:32:16 – 00:00:34:16
Tell me a little bit about who you are?

00:00:35:26 – 00:01:00:12
I’m just, you know, a daughter of immigrants from Montreal who made her way to Silicon Valley during the boom and have three kids and by some miracle the same husband had them living through the third act of my career doing something I’m very passionate about as opposed to just figuring out how to pay the mortgage.

00:01:00:24 – 00:01:02:12
That’s interesting. So what are you doing?

00:01:03:00 – 00:01:35:07
You know I have this company called Grokker which is an on demand well-being. We like to call it the on-demand well-being solution employees love it. Simply put you think of it as Netflix for well-being. I mean so we combine beautiful expert led video. Covering everything from exercise and mental health and sleep nutrition financial well-being you name it. With a very supportive community. And personalization to make it fun and just a little bit easier to achieve healthier habits.

00:01:35:26 – 00:01:42:28
So how do you end up doing this? It does not sound like the dreams of a young girl in a sandbox somewhere?

00:01:45:14 – 00:01:52:09
Well I like to say that all of my career moves have been because I’m not afraid to disappoint my mother.

00:01:54:09 – 00:03:09:12
My mom my mother you know an immigrant who made it to the new world and became a lawyer and a judge and really likes the safe route. And so every time I make a career move into the new into something new and different. It’s like No way am I to explain that to my mother. This latest adventure which actually began seven years ago was because I was personally struggling. With how can I fit Well being into my life that I don’t have time to go to the gym the yoga student. He was really. I felt nobody was helping me John. And everyone had these unrealistic expectations of what I needed to do. And I thought Gee. If we can just help people who have no time like me busier than ever I think we can do something great. And the reason why I chose to do it in this way is because I could see. With the proliferation of smartphones tablets connected TV. That new video was going to be consumed more than ever and people were loving this video. I had to figure out how can I make this on demand very video very. Accessible to you. In a way that was not going to feel like a chore but to feel like something fun and easy.

00:03:09:26 – 00:03:21:17
So let’s give a little bit basic. What do you mean by will be. What is that. So. It’s been such a good question because it’s going to mean something a little different to me than it is to you

00:03:22:02 – 00:04:01:18
To think about overall well-being. What are the different dimension. Of your physical and emotional life. That lead to you feeling well. So there is you know emotional well-being there’s physical. Well-being there’s social connectedness. There. You know I talk a lot about I think people today more than ever. It’s not just employees. Everyone is demanding three things a life a sense of purpose a sense of belonging and a sense of balance. I mean you can have those three elusive things all at once and I feel you’ve got total well-being. So that’s sort of how I like.

00:04:02:19 – 00:04:13:23
To talk about it. The idea is that somehow watching you video can produce that. Well it’s not like one isolated video is going to

00:04:14:07 – 00:05:12:28
Magically change your life. It’s because we’re busier now than ever. We don’t have the time to like you know I don’t know about you but can you see how fitness has moved out of the gym right. So. Instead of expecting you to go do something like that. What if we can just you know. In your pocket. The power of a wonderful expert know personal trainer on the man. Who can help you with. A 15 minute stretch. Video that you can do when you have the time. Or a meditation practice that you can do while you’re waiting to carpool. So it’s really the video are a ways little incremental way. All. Deaths. That help you find the time for well-being. But when you stick them all together and you’re able to fit them into your lifestyle it actually makes you seriously feel different. But it’s a small steps at a time.

00:05:13:00 – 00:05:35:01
Small steps at a time. So I take it that means that you have a bigger picture of where we’re going. You take small steps in any given direction and you can get nowhere. So this going to be some sort of trajectory. How do you put that out. How do you help somebody point out that landed trajectory. So I think the first thing that you need to do is don’t

00:05:35:12 – 00:07:50:27
Think that everybody is the same. That’s just a fatal flaw. So we really sort of have to understand. Who you’re dealing with. If I’m talking to someone who. Does not work out at all is pre diabetic is suffering from lack of proper sleep hygiene and you know is 35 year old mother of two. Well I understand what she’s struggling with right now. I mean give her a very personalized plan. Going to how much time she has when she can do it what she has access to. So the first piece in the you know what are the steps. Number one understand what are they struggling with. And how much time do they have. To. Devote to doing things that might make them feel better. Then the second thing you do once you understand. Where they’re at is you have to be able to provide quite a compelling. Entertaining and easy experience. And so the videos can’t feel. Like I’m looking going to give that woman that we’re talking about. Some type of mega celebrity personal trainer to follow. I mean it’ll kill her. Turn her off. Someone approachable someone who’s been intimidating. And takes this thinking out of it for her structure it for her schedule it for her. Tend. To her reminders. Provide her encouragement. And then the videos will progress. They start off really easy very simple. It’s like honey you know the basics of habit formation right. You have to have a small win from the beginning and then you have to repeat them at the right intervals to reinforce that eventually. It becomes a habit. So we think at this moment gets. Drawn as. What do you mean. Who are you. What do you need. We have a massive amount of video because we have a patent on how we film video that lets us have all of it. And we’ve had you know starting off as a consumer company first. We’ve had so many years of trial and error with consumers to understand. What works and what doesn’t. And so we’ve home still a little bit more. Like a Netflix then like an enterprise software company. As I understand what you just said.

00:07:51:13 – 00:08:31:15
You’re able to develop a personalized wellness development plans and curricula for people inside of some sort of enterprise. How often does it work. Does everybody who touches this get well or is it more to school. I wish it was not everyone who was with us immediately made well. We get you know roughly if you want to talk about real numbers and you’re talking about a large employer in the first year you can expect about 50 percent of your employees to become engaged with Crocker

00:08:31:23 – 00:10:37:25
And somewhere in the 35 percent range to be engaged on a quarterly basis. And what’s interesting about that John is we take your question one layer deeper. When you think about which again people are not all the same. The same person isn’t even the same sitting here on April 5th they’re going to be on September 5th. They are shifting their different stressors there different movements happening in their personal lives in their work lives. And so if you really need to think about this journey with the employee where naturally. They’re going to be more prone to listen and be open to receiving help. Depending on what was happening for them at work and at home. And so you better have different things to try to catch. So with all the time. So again not the same stuff every single month different messaging. Different opportunities whether it’s. You know a new program that you’re launching that they might be interested in. You know we recently for example had launched a sugar reset. Which was well timed in the first quarter and we’re all thinking about nutrition. That’s a good time to try to catch them and then that. Would not be a good time in the holiday season to try to hit someone with a sugar reset. They’re not going to try to do that. I want all of the eggnog I feel at home. But that might be a good time of the year to try to help people. With some. Coping mechanisms of getting through the holidays. So when we talk about. That success it’s not just oh we’ve got great stuff. Come any time that’s what what’s happening with you right now. And we’ll check in with you will have you the opportunity right to take our wellness quiz throughout the year. That measures along for matters of well-being. How are you doing right now. And oh my gosh we see that right now you’re struggling with sleep. Why don’t we give you some sleep hygiene videos some sleep stories and some easy ways to lessen. Your issues around that. I think it ebbs and flows but as always you have to be releasing new content all the time. You have to have exciting new opportunities and you have to make it easy for people to participate.

00:10:38:01 – 00:11:30:20
So you have kind of a hypothetical show for me about 90 do should do or quit eating gluten and dairy and as a result of quitting eating even gluten and dairy I feel better and feeling better means I used to think it was normal to her when I was done with a meal and I didn’t even think about it being something unusual. It was something I wanted to fix. It just was. And so when I talk about wellness I think that there must be a ton of things that I think are just normal and that I’m not struggling with their view of my world. How do you trust that sort of thing where you may know that something is unhealthy or is a path to feeling better. And it’s completely opaque to me the user of your system pro-life community and such.

00:11:30:21 – 00:13:37:27
It’s such a beautiful question. And by the way I also took out it will vary from my diet because I. Love story about why a friend of mine has said hey you do this and you’ll feel better. And it was life changing. So I think. Part of what you were. Implicitly. Explaining is that. You need. Other people. To bring ideas to you that you’re not necessarily going to identify. As a problem on your own. And so influencers in your life whether it’s at work or at home. People who are more of the connectors. That are. You know trusted who will come and suggest something. To you that you wouldn’t otherwise connect is what is needed. And to a certain extent I think that the the employer has a really interesting role. That they can play. In helping to bring together. Existing. Colleagues here. To help with a type of the community. And I’m not talking about Facebook community not like I’m trying to impress you. This is what we’re seeing in a lot of our work where you have these. Ambassadors these people that you work with who they are the ones who first tried to absolutely endearing. And they’ll say oh my gosh this is amazing or they’re the one to do. The whole 30 every January and encourage everyone to do it with them. So I think a you need to have connections and ability for people to. Talk openly about these things. Number one you have an environment. Where it’s okay to talk about do you think it’s okay to be real. To your police have permission to even think and talk about it. If your. Executives. Are all. You know. Eat lunch at their desks and never move and really care about whether you’re there at 6 p.m. or when it’s hard to create that culture. But if you are like I was you know my first corporate job with two Packard. And my boss the first day of work and came to my cube and said at lunch time Hey you come into the gym.

00:13:38:20 – 00:13:55:05
Well. That’s giving me permission. And so you know when you have an environment that gives employees. Permission and they can create that. Community. And then specifically for how you. Share

00:13:55:19 – 00:15:04:00
The opportunities to make yourself feel better. You’ve got to have. A calendar for the year. Different topics that might appeal to different people. We know cracker has we have a 12 month calendar every month is a different scene. And we provide. A webinar materials in which each team e-mails and new videos get released. But it’s just a way of disseminating information we work and ambassadors at the company. How do you create something exciting and new around ideas that you might not. Have heard of before. And make it approachable. I don’t know for you John when you decided to try this if it felt daunting or you thought oh I’m just going to give it a little try I’m just going to try it for maybe a month. It’s so much easier. When you don’t feel like you’re making a life commitment you’re just trying something small. To see how you feel. A week. Two weeks and then can lead to something else. So I think that you have to feel permission. You have to have exciting entertaining ways of exploring. And hopefully have a community that is going to support you and give you the ideas that I wouldn’t have figured out to cut out the gluten in the dairy myself

00:15:05:04 – 00:15:09:20
So what makes you different from other wellness.

00:15:10:12 – 00:17:41:17
No one I think honestly the first thing that makes us different is we didn’t start out in the direct to consumer company. Right. So we’ve been. Perfecting the art of engaging consumers. You know I like Netflix or Amazon. Not approaching it like an enterprise H.R. software company. I think that. The first thing that’s different. The second thing that’s different is let’s face it employees are struggling. Right they’re struggling with obesity and high blood pressure and pain and depression and lack of sleep and. All of these things preventing them from. Bringing a hundred percent to work. And while the first generation of these wellness programs pushed for. The measurement of BMI or the measurement of blood pressure. And through a bunch of paid incentives at you just to take that test. You know that a stat that benefits professional and clung to like a coat of armor to protect them from the pop shocked about not having. A. Eye they can prove. That. You know. We’re very different we don’t take that approach. Actually the approach that we take is that. If. You. Are. Your. Individual. You are not a dad and that we know that a stat isn’t going to make you well. So our perspective is that. These are lifestyle risks. Are what matter because if you’re struggling with depression it’s going to affect you at home. It’s going to affect you at work. So let’s focus on addressing that. But we also believe that because everyone’s different. You need to be engaged and supported in ways that fit you. So as a result we believe that to help people you have to incorporate very modern consumer technologies like video. Blog 24/7 on demand access personalization. Assessment. Creating small incremental steps with encouragement and community in order to help you. So we don’t assume we’re not arrogant. We don’t assume that we know what you need. There is no one size fits all. So first we added. Then. We personalize a program. That provides these small steps that can hopefully make it easier for you to create. The change in your life that you want. And I think a laugh that’s different about us is we’ve got such a wide range. Of well-being programs because of our history. And that means that you know you can learn about reducing sugar. In your cooking one day and how to get a better night’s sleep the next. So there’s more opportunities. To get you engaged and keep you engaged because it’s not some boring you know. Oh we’re all walking to roam again. Some challenge

00:17:42:14 – 00:18:22:17
A lot of the things that are the targets of wellness programs are taboo subjects. So the fact that I suffer from depression or any of that suffer from diabetes. Generally. But you couldn’t tell me that this is a generational thing which is generally not something that I am all that interested in sharing with my employer. And so that brings me to the question of how you handle privacy and the experience of privacy. A tool that’s provided by an employer. How do you stop it from feeling intrusive in areas that I don’t really want people to know about.

00:18:23:22 – 00:20:51:08
This is critical to success. You have to make sure. The a minute feel fully comes into your environment whether they’re whether it’s Brockett or anything else. We’re helping employers with. The employee has to understand. That their information. Is private. Like we because we support global employers we are completely GDP are compliant. So we would also point to that right. Blame that their privacy is being protected. But moreover. For employees to understand and be open with them about what is and isn’t shared with the employer. So. We have actually been very fortunate. Because again I think coming from the consumer realm it’s very clear from the minute. That you come on your property that. There are ways to keep your staff to yourself. And there are things if you want to share you can. But there’s no requirement for you to share anything. I think transparency in how you talk about it. But also what’s really interesting Daryn and it is somewhat generational. People. Want to be more real. At work and get home. We actually find that employees really want to connect over whether in. That. They’re. Suffering my anxiety or suffering from depression for really struggling with weight. People want to reach out to one another especially colleague. In a work environment. For that feeling of I’m not so alone. So I think the balance of making clear what shared you what isn’t. And then to how can you give people great opportunities. To feel that they’re not alone and have very respected expert to help them is one thing. But having an opportunity for other people to lead by example. Often we see executives lead by example. And they’ll. Join the mindfulness if we have a mindfulness program that a company is launching. The executives will say I really need this in my life right now under stress. And what’s wonderful is again giving employees permission. To talk about it. And again you don’t have to like no one can make you force you to tell everyone anything. I want to keep this private and keep it private. I want to talk about it. I can participate and talk about it. But just the act of. Watching videos that’s not visible to other people in the group is there. So. You’re not at risk unless you choose to share that information.

00:20:52:14 – 00:21:16:27
That’s interesting. So I think I have a different view of how people see. Internet based tools. It spans years of being lied to about what’s private and what’s not private that most people have experience. All right and so the question is what makes you so different that people are going to believe that their interactions with you are private I can only tell you

00:21:17:07 – 00:22:53:23
What our experience is. And so I can you know it’s a good question which probably survey. Our consumers and our enterprise clients users and ask them why they trust so much. But I really think the reason is. The experience in Morocco particularly. It’s very personal. It doesn’t feel there’s none of this chest thumping kind of Facebook like showing off to other people it’s much more. Everyone’s here because. We’re trying to find a little bit of happiness really ultimately health and happiness. And I think our expert who moderate our community we have over 130 global experts that are active in the global community. They really help with the self policing. They set a tone. Which is not at all. Cheeky or clever in a in a way that might be off putting It’s very inclusive and it’s very un intimidating. And so I think with the expert setting the tone and ah the way that we onboard you and you can see what is and isn’t public. It’s very very clear in our terms and conditions that we will never share or sell your data which is something that. Social media company will claim. I think that we’ve been able to. Assuage or prevent. Those fears from arising and we’ve never breached it and we haven’t created any trust in the community. But I’m going to ask that question in our next survey. Because I think it’s that combination that these experts within our community and how we talk to you in a way that is quite personal and quite real

00:22:54:16 – 00:23:06:13
Could be a longer conversation but I imagine in the days that you talk to your client there are some things that some of your users might find suspicious.

00:23:06:13 – 00:23:11:09
You know for instance whether they call aggregated John right.

00:23:11:12 – 00:23:15:07
It’s a much longer conversation. It’s a much much longer conversation.

00:23:15:09 – 00:23:19:21
Let’s have a 180. If I’m missing if I’m missing something I want to know.

00:23:20:02 – 00:23:47:20
Will be Facebook data is aggregated to desegregation of data is part of what hacking looks like there’s lots of ground to cover there. But how do you tell if somebody is a good customer for you vs. a recount that you ever walk away from as soon as you can. Well I’ve got the scars to show you how I learned this lesson number one. If a if a client

00:23:48:09 – 00:25:30:02
Does not talk about their employees in a way that demonstrates that they genuinely care about them. This is no more than a box checking exercise. They’re not a good client for pay. They actually are. Really in danger. Chances are there’s not a great culture and it’s not going to be. A successful relationship. The second thing that would make a client. Not good for us is. If what they’re looking for is a an extremely. Clinical. You know a very clinical approach to taking care of their business. That’s not us. But we are really about preventative and lifestyle. So if you want something super clinical. You specifically. Want to address your smokers in your population and get them to quit smoking within three months to lower. Your insurance costs. That’s not us. And you’re not a good client. And I think conversely what makes you good for us if you have a global offices or remote offices you’ve got a diverse and dispersed employee population. That’s a good audience for her rocker because we sort of level that playing field and make it available everywhere. And then the other thing that would make you wait maybe not. A great client. For us. Is. If. What you’re looking is she taking the punitive approach towards your team. Like there are some companies that take the approach they apply disincentive. We don’t believe that that work. And so we’re not a good match for you if you apply punishments or disincentive. That’s probably not gonna make a fair go.

00:25:30:12 – 00:25:35:08
So we have ripped through our time together. What do you want to be sure of is Patricia Wu

00:25:36:11 – 00:26:43:11
I guess one there is hope there’s never been a better time to be it. Benefits professional. There is increased focus on the importance of benefit. Everywhere an employer branding your benefits budgets are growing. Employees are actually making career choices now based on the quality and range of the benefits you provide. So. I think there’s so much hope. And you should be working with people who can make you feel like a hero is one thing. And then the second thing is this doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult right. We get our clients up and running in 30 days or less. And it’s really inexpensive. You know you don’t have to spend millions of dollars. So. I think you have to understand that. As an employer. You know you have all of these new options. It’s taking time. To shift thinking from. I am going to focus on getting a measurement. And to think rather how can I create an economy of well-being and a movement towards a culture of well-being at my company. I think you’ve got the tools now that were never there before to help you with it. And the tides in your favor with employees.

00:26:44:06 – 00:26:51:10
Fantastic. Well it’s been great speaking with you would you take a moment and reintroduce yourself, tell people how they might get a hold of you?

00:26:52:01 – 00:27:01:08
Of course you can send me an email just to LB, that’s Lorna Borenstein, so L.B. at Grokker dot com and also just for your listeners John,

00:27:01:15 – 00:27:23:07
I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience a free taste Grokker firsthand. So we created an URL that they can visit. To get access to free videos and check it out. And that URL is

00:27:24:11 – 00:27:36:11
Fantastic it’s been great talking with you today Lorna, you’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations and we’ve been speaking with Lorna Borenstein who is the founder and CEO of Grokker.

00:27:36:27 – 00:27:43:19
And you can get a free trial of Grokker at

00:27:44:07 – 00:27:50:16
Thanks everybody for tuning in. Thanks again Lorna. And we will see you here next week. Bye bye now.


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