How to Lead Through Uncertainty - #WorkTrends Podcast Encore - TalentCulture

The Struggle Continues: How to Lead Through Uncertainty

Sponsored by HiBob

What a wild year this has been in the world of work! Of course, it started on shaky ground, with economic pressure triggering widespread layoffs in tech, retail, and other vulnerable industries. Then turnover peaked, engagement sank, and “quiet quitting” settled in as employees pushed back on return-to-office policies. Not surprisingly, all of this has taken a toll on leadership. And now, scores of managers and executives are no longer willing to lead through uncertainty.

What gives with all this turmoil? After making it past the dark pandemic years, you’d think we’d all be breathing a collective sigh of relief. The optimist in me even hoped organizations would emerge stronger, more connected, and more supportive than ever. But we’re not there yet. Far from it.

The Gap Is Growing

Frankly, it’s hard to blame anyone for being weary of workplace challenges or disappointed by a lack of progress. But the distance between expectations and reality continues to increase, which isn’t a good sign.

For instance, Gallup says the number of workers who are angry, stressed, and disengaged is still climbing. And research from BambooHR indicates that employee satisfaction is now lower than before the pandemic, dropping 10% this year alone.

So, what will bridge this growing divide? It won’t be easy, especially if employee experience takes a backseat to other business priorities. Yet sadly, that’s exactly where organizations are headed.

In fact, Forrester analysts predict a full-on “EX Winter” in 2024, as companies start to freeze their employee experience investments. Yes, you read that right. Ironically, this is starting to happen precisely when our weary workforce needs more attention and better solutions. That means anyone who cares about the future of work will need to be especially creative and resourceful.

How Do We Lead Now?

Strategies that helped organizations thrive under different circumstances are no longer relevant. But with internal and external factors continuing to change, how can you preserve what’s valuable and unique about an organization? How do you lead through uncertainty?

These questions were top-of-mind for organizations a year ago, when I invited Ronni Zehavi, Co-Founder and CEO of HiBob to join me for the first #WorkTrends podcast of 2023. Little did I know then that this topic would become even more important as we look ahead to 2024. But as I look back now on that conversation with Ronni, it’s clear how enduring his management advice is.

But that’s not surprising, given Ronni’s background. With more than 25 years of experience in launching and leading successful technology companies, he knows first-hand how to guide organizations through volatile, uncertain circumstances.

Today, as we look at workplace challenges that lie ahead, I think you’ll agree that Ronni’s unique perspective and expertise can help others continue to lead through uncertainty…

One Solution: Resilience

According to Ronni, a key to surviving and even thriving through chaos is resilience  — the capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of adversity. But resilience doesn’t occur by chance. It takes a particular mindset. It also takes a commitment to developing skills and processes that help your organization remain viable and competitive, especially in a fluid, uncertain environment.

In a world filled with disruption, it’s impossible to predict what’s ahead. That means we need to build resilience so we can weather the storm. Ultimately, it pays to prepare for the worst, even as we hope for the best.

Resilience matters even more now. So how can you leverage it as you continue to lead through uncertainty? Check these takeaways from my conversation with Ronni:

Manage Multiple Unknowns With Caution

It’s a bit like driving a car. In 2020 or 2021, driving fast may have been easier because the road was clear. But today it’s bumpy and cloudy, so you need to slow down.

Uncertainty means nobody knows when this will end. We may see a recovery in 2023, or maybe 2024. So how do you deal with this uncertainty? It’s a big challenge for leaders.

First, read the map and then adjust your plan. How long is your runway? Do you have enough cash? Do you have funds to weather the storm?

Then look realistically at the environment. A slowdown will impact your customers as well as your organization. Will you be able to generate the revenues you expect?

When Slowing Down, Consider Your Culture

As you adjust to a difficult environment, layoffs are only one option in a CEO’s toolbox. First, you may decide to slow down hiring. If that isn’t enough, then you may need to freeze hiring or freeze salary increases, or both. And if needed, the next option could be salary cuts or layoffs. One or both.

But it is important to think about the people who stay as well as those who are laid off. Retention can be affected when those who remain are expected to do the job of two people or even more.

Communication and transparency are critical to preserve your culture.

Prepare Now for Better Times

It starts with your people. Invest in them. Make sure you can retain all of them. Or if not all of them, focus on your most important people. Because you’ll want them to be with you when the tailwind comes.

And more than anything else, think positive. What goes down comes back up. So optimism is critical.

Flexible Work Can Help

Flexibility was a nice-to-have perk a few years ago. Then the pandemic proved that organizations can deal with it. So I think hybrid work is here to stay.

The ultimate combination is two or three days at the office or two or three days remote. It offers flexibility, but also promotes engagement and collaboration.

Focus on Finding a Balance with Hybrid Work

It’s a journey. It will take time until it becomes a standard. But flexibility is all about what we call The Three T’s:

Trust. Transparency. Teamwork.

If your organization follows these values, it will help you create a flexible work culture.

 


More Ideas on How to Lead Through Uncertainty

Ronni Zehavi isn’t the only expert who has generously shared useful real-world lessons with us lately. Here’s helpful guidance from others in our community:

1. Resilience Starts Within

If you want a resilient business, ask yourself this central question: What are you doing to elevate employee mental health and wellbeing?

2. A Great Employee Experience = A Strong Business

To deliver an exceptional customer experience, focus on building a culture that puts employee experience first.

3. Resilient Work Cultures Put Humans First

Leadership is hard, but the most effective leaders invest in what matters to their employees: purpose, empowerment, recognition, positivity, and growth.

4. Gamification Can Defeat a Gloomy Culture

By getting serious about gamification, organizations are bringing hybrid teams together, boosting productivity, and lifting engagement.

5. Managers Need a New Toolkit

Employee growth is essential for organizations to thrive in the “Post-Everything” Era. That means managers need to embrace a fresh approach.

6. Choose Change Methods Wisely

Change management is tricky. Successful leaders bring people along by matching the method to the situation.

7. Individuals Can Develop Career Resilience

Everyone has the potential to recover from setbacks. It helps to practice proven strategies before you need to apply them.

8. A Flexible Talent Pipeline Fuels Productivity

In a fluid business environment, how rapidly can you adjust to changing talent requirements?

9. Onboarding Is Where It All Begins

No one can afford to lose great talent. For stronger retention through challenging times, start at the beginning and level up your onboarding game.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: For more in-depth information about how to lead through uncertainty, visit the HiBob website, where you’ll find all kinds of helpful resources for employers. And for more #WorkTrends insights, check our growing collection of podcast episodes at Apple or Spotify and subscribe!

How to Escape a Professional Reputation Box

Do You Need to Escape a Professional Reputation “Box”?

Recently, I was talking with a dear friend who was about to interview a candidate she had unknowingly placed in a professional reputation “box”. The best way to describe this friend is fierce, in charge, and collaborative. And she was adamant about hiring someone who was different from her and could challenge her.

“What do you think?” I asked, “Does Pat have the skills you need?”

“Well, Pat is nice, but I just don’t think this is the person I need,” she replied.

“Why?”

“Well, Pat is more of a B player.”

I pressed further. Finally, she revealed that she doubted Pat’s strategic abilities. I asked for examples, but she didn’t offer anything concrete. Finally, I asked if she felt she might be biased based on her own personality. Suddenly, her face lit up with recognition.

Soon afterward, my friend thanked me for the conversation and said she was ready to approach the interview with a newfound lens. In this case, it was helpful to be sitting next to an executive coach at just the right moment. But that’s not always possible. So here’s some advice you may want to keep in mind…

Professional Reputation “Boxes” Are All Around

How do you know when assumptions about others are limiting your actions? What opportunities is this behavior causing you to miss? Here are several more examples:

  • Harper was introduced to the team’s new manager as the “go-to person” for everything, and Harper strove to live up to that persona. But recently, when stumped by a critical question, Harper made up an answer, rather than asking for help. When it became clear that the answer was wrong, trust was lost. Now, Harper no longer meets the expectations of the boss or colleagues.
  • Tracey is a mid-level executive who feels unsafe saying something in a group because all of Tracey’s comments are disregarded or met with skepticism. Tracey is unsure how this happened, but suddenly feels perceived as ineffective without knowing why.

Inside That “Boxed In” Feeling

In each of these cases, the individual feels trapped by a professional context they can’t seem to escape. It can be debilitating and alienating. Like the famous movie Gaslight, everything they say or do is received within a preconceived mindset: “B-Player”, “untrustworthy”, or “ineffective.”

This can create a sense of helplessness that fuels frustration, anxiety, and depression. At work, it directly influences an individual’s perceived competency, resulting in lower performance scores and fewer professional opportunities. And when left unchecked, it can drive valuable people to resign.

These situations may be extreme, but the themes are universal. At some point in life, we all feel like nothing we say or do can change the way others perceive us. But when perceptions go negative at work, organizations can lose talent that must be replaced, often at a higher cost.

The Roots of a Professional Reputation “Box”

There are many ways a professional reputation can become trapped in a perceptual box. Behavioral research highlights underlying factors. For example:

  • A famous large-scale audit of executives found that once leaders see an employee in a political context or situation, it solidifies their professional “reputation.” After this point, there’s little an individual can do to counteract this perception.
  • We only see what we want to see” is a well-known cognitive bias. Countless studies have shown that our desires affect our perceptions, regardless of reality. We tend to ignore some facts in favor of others that support our original premise or perceptual bias.

With attitudes and assumptions like these, we put individuals in a difficult loop to maintain — they can either do no wrong, or do nothing right. And once others agree, there’s a groundswell of opinion to undo. The situation seems impossible to remedy.

However, by recognizing and responding to these issues, leaders can help employees change their reputation, and hopefully keep them on board.

How to Break Out of a Reputation Box

If you’re an individual stuck in a reputation box, what should you do? First, get a blank book so you can write about your experiences, feedback, and things you want to change. Acknowledge what you feel and what you know. Then start adjusting aspects of the situation that are within your control. Specifically, you can:

1. Change your point of view: Coach yourself by considering your situation as if you were an outsider. What advice would you give someone in your position?

2. Change your behaviors: Note your feelings and reactions to challenging situations. What are the underlying triggers? Do you see a pattern involving a particular person, context, or environment? When this happens, how do you feel? What is your reaction?

3. Write what you want to say: Keep a book of helpful phrases. After a difficult situation, we often say, “Wow, I wish I had said this instead of that!” Please write it down! What would you have preferred to say and why? This increases self-awareness. It can also prepare you to respond more effectively when similar situations arise in the future.

4. Maintain a curious mindset: Develop questions that can help you learn more when interacting with others. For example, “Tell me more about that.” Or “I’m not sure I follow. Could you help me understand your perspective?” Or “What questions do you have?” Or “What do you think about this approach?”

5. Examine your outlook: If we appear defeated, others will perceive us that way. Instead, stay curious. Ask “why?” more often. Focus on staying open, gathering information, and receiving feedback.

How Organizations Can Get Rid of Boxes

Escaping “the box” isn’t just for individuals who want to manage their reputation. What if you lead a group, department, or organization? How can you fight this common situation within your teams?

1. Recognize bias: Understand that the best way to combat bias is to teach team members about it and call it when you see it. This includes all cognitive bias — halo, horns, perception, and beyond.

2. Give people opportunities to change and grow: Provide options for your employees to be mobile, try new managers, and gain new skills.

3. Actively coach people and share feedback: This seems trite. However, leaders tend to fail at providing constructive feedback when team members need it most. And it’s not just about timing. Feedback quality is paramount. So take care to offer actionable input and recognize that continuous learning is far more powerful than a one-off comment.

4. Embrace data-driven performance management: An MIT Sloan research study on performance management clearly shows that a flexible, data-based development and performance management system decreases backward-looking bias and other undesirable aspects of the performance management process.

A Final Note on Escaping the Reputation Box

These are some easy and effective techniques that can produce quick and positive results. I have personally witnessed a turnaround when coaching people to use these methods. Success depends on resilience and the perseverance to follow through and keep moving forward. But for all the Pats, Traceys, and Harpers out there who feel you can’t escape a negative professional reputation — and to your employers — I encourage you to stay curious and keep thinking outside the box!

What Would Your Culture Map Reveal?

What Would Your Culture Map Reveal?

Sponsored by The Culture Platform

What makes maps so special is they tell you exactly where to find places you want to visit.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if every organization had a culture map? Wouldn’t it be even better if that culture map worked like Google or Apple Maps? Anyone could easily search to find organizations whose cultural values are clearly marked on the map, and get directions to those companies. What a useful tool that would be.

The “Why, What, and How” of Culture

I think enough has been said about the “why” of culture and its role in organizational success. Anyone who has managed people or led a business knows a healthy culture is paramount to attract the best employees. And the best cultures consistently outperform and out-execute the competition.

We also know “what” culture is. It’s a set of stated values, beliefs, attitudes, rules, and behaviors expected where you work. For example, when I worked for Cisco CEO John Chambers, one of his stated cultural values was: “Treat people the way you would like to be treated, yourself.” Another was, “Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was.”

Now, as we enter the post-everything era, it’s time to focus on the “how” of culture. Companies have no other choice. “Post-everything” signaled a fundamental change in expectations. GenZ and Millennials are ready to leave one job for another faster than any generation in history.

If your company wants to attract and keep the best employees, you need a way to prove that you “walk the talk” of your stated values. But all too many miss the mark. The top reason organizational cultures don’t live up to their stated values is a lack of leadership commitment to those values.

Any organization that wants to be a magnet for talent must prove that it can live up to its aspirations. As we used to say at Cisco, “We’re in Missouri now — the ‘Show Me’ state.”

How a Culture Map Can Show The Way

For employers, a culture map is a way to show employees what the organization actually stands for. Mapping organizational culture is a new idea. It will require the same GPS features as digital maps on our phones:

  • Pin Drops: Destinations on the map need to be accurate.
  • Step-by-Step Navigation: Destinations must be accompanied by directions that explain how to get there.
  • Re-Routing: The map should reveal better ways to get to the desired destination — how to “walk the talk.”

I started The Culture Platform because I wanted to surround myself with thought leaders who have “GPS” models to measure cultural values. Because my professional background is in research, my bar is high. I’m willing to work with a model only if it is either research-based or battle-tested in the market. In other words, the models must predictably measure a specific cultural value.

I think it is a mistake to “boil the ocean” by relying on a single culture indicator. Every organization is different and unique — and every organization doesn’t need to share the same values.

The ability to measure a specific aspect of culture with a data model is what makes culture-specific “pin drops” on a map possible. In my search, I found five models that meet my criteria. Each solves a specific element of the “how” for culture-building. Those dimensions can be either curiosity, self-awareness, a sense of belonging, transparency, or empowerment.

For example, consider these five culture scenarios:

  • Many companies say innovation is a strategy — but does their culture promote curiosity, the necessary belief that it’s okay to challenge the status quo without fear of retribution?
  • Many companies say listening to their employees is a key value — but are their leaders and managers self-aware of their behaviors?
  • Many companies say a diverse workforce is their people strategy — but does their culture fundamentally embrace a sense of belonging?
  • Many companies emphasize autonomy and decentralization — but do they truly empower every employee?

These five models do more than provide the pin drop. Each has a set of step-by-step directions that represents the most effective route to the “pin.” For example, a culture of curiosity has four main “turns” to reach the pin. It should:

  1. Encourage exploration
  2. Inspire creativity
  3. Emphasize openness to new ideas and
  4. Drive engagement and focus from the top

Culture Meets GPS

The “how” of culture has always been the hardest part. It can’t be done without leaders leading the way. That’s why I was so lucky to be a direct report of John Chambers who helped him build Cisco’s culture. We had the luxury of time, though. Today, organizations need to move faster. And the way to accomplish that is with a map that includes clear “directions” to reach specific outcomes.

I remember when we Boomers printed out step-by-step directions in MapQuest (and tried to read them while driving). A culture map transports us all to the “GPS” era. Now, we can finally get to desired cultural destinations safer, faster, and with confidence.

If you want to give culture mapping a try and see how your culture stacks up, we welcome you at The Culture Platform. To get started, just email me at:  TheCulturePlatform@gmail.com.

Employee Experience 5 Paths to a More Human Work Culture

Employee Experience: 5 Paths to a More Human Work Culture

Anyone who says being a leader is easy is simply not being honest. Leadership is hard. Yes, I said it. And that shouldn’t shock anyone. After all, modern managers are expected to be nearly super-human. They’re responsible for inspiring people, bringing out the best in their teams, and getting positive results. And naturally, they play a crucial role in shaping the employee experience.

Effective leaders create a positive work culture that fosters engagement, enhances job satisfaction, and increases productivity. Innovative work processes and technology can help. But the most influential leaders rely on more than KPIs, annual performance reviews, and cool digital tools to shape individual and organizational success.

Instead, these enlightened leaders put wellbeing and productivity at the center of their employee experience strategy. All of this sounds good, doesn’t it? But it is much easier said than done.

This article challenges leaders to focus on five factors that drive employee experience in today’s complex work environment: 

  • Empowerment
  • Purpose
  • Recognition
  • Positivity
  • Growth

To uncover areas for improvement, consider these questions…

1. Do Employees Feel Empowered as Individuals and Part of a Team?

For any organization, balancing individuality and teamwork is a delicate art. Do you provide an environment where employees feel free to express themselves openly and authentically, as members of a cohesive, supportive team?

Aim for a Sense of Belonging

The desire to feel connected with others is part of the human condition. In childhood, we begin to fulfill this need by forging relationships with family members and groups of friends who accept us for who we are.

Similarly, at work, a sense of belonging develops when we feel free to show up and contribute as ourselves. In fact, extensive research reveals a strong relationship between authenticity, psychological safety, trust, and a sense of belonging. By behaving openly and authentically, you give peers and team members unspoken permission to do the same. What’s more, by letting go of unnatural roles, everyone has more energy to focus on what really matters.

Breed Trust Through Authenticity

As a leader, you can set a powerful example for others by sharing your own personal and professional setbacks and successes. This lays the foundation for a more genuine, relatable team atmosphere. Employees who see their leaders as real people with strengths, weaknesses, and a desire to learn, they’re more likely to open up, collaborate, and take calculated risks. Ultimately, this can drive creativity, innovation, and growth.

2. Do People See Purpose in Their Work?

How well do employees understand the significance of their efforts? When people understand how their jobs support an organization’s broader mission, they become more motivated, engaged, and committed to their work.

Connect Tasks With Meaning

We’ve all had moments of reckoning at work when we suddenly wonder, “Why am I doing this? Why does this matter?” Don’t wait for this to happen to your employees.

When assigning projects or responsibilities, you have a unique opportunity to share meaningful context. Don’t hesitate to underscore the impact you believe your team members will have on your department, your organization, your customers, or the community at large.

Frame Work as a Fulfilling Endeavor

We all want our efforts to mean something. In fact, research confirms that when employees understand how their daily efforts fit into the bigger picture, they’re more motivated and fulfilled.

Speaking to the value employees bring to the table can deepen their commitment to their job, their team, and the organization as a whole. So, remember to regularly remind people about their significance and acknowledge their contributions.

3. Do You Make Recognition Integral to Work Life?

Celebrating employee contributions strengthens their connection to the organization. Ultimately, this leads to better performance, higher profits, and stronger retention rates. How well do you respond to this need?

Acknowledge Excellence and Effort

Recognition is a core pillar of employee experience. That’s why you’ll want to acknowledge team members on a regular basis.

We all crave validation, but every situation is unique. So take time to think about the most effective approach. Some public acknowledgments resonate for some people, while others prefer a personal note or private 1-on-1 conversation.

Acknowledging excellence boosts morale, builds engagement, and reinforces a sense of value. So don’t hesitate to share a simple “thank you” or reward people formally through a recognition program, 

Encourage Everyone to Participate

At WorkRamp, we’ve created a #Props Slack dedicated to employee recognition. We encourage all employees to use this space to express gratitude, brag about team members, share accomplishments, and celebrate work wins. It’s one of our most popular Slack channels, and team members of all levels regularly contribute. 

4. Is Your Environment Positive and Inclusive?

Company culture directly affects employee employee wellbeing and productivity. A supportive, collaborative workplace attracts and retains top talent, motivates people to excel, drives job satisfaction, and leads to organizational success. How can you build a better culture?

Cultivate Positivity

A positive culture helps employees feel comfortable and supported, which boosts job satisfaction and wellbeing. As a leader, you can set the tone for this kind of environment. To move the meter, you’ll want to embrace change, champion open communication, and ensure fairness whenever possible.

Promote Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance can be elusive, especially these days, when more employees are working remotely or in a hybrid mode. However, by helping team members balance personal and professional priorities, you can help employees gain a stronger sense of wellbeing. 

There are multiple ways to encourage self-care. For example, you can remind people to take breaks, use their vacation time, and unplug during off hours. By supporting healthier habits, you can help team members become more focused, motivated, engaged, and productive teams.

Prioritize Diversity and Inclusion

Promoting workplace diversity and inclusion is not just a moral imperative — it’s a strategic advantage. Embracing diverse perspectives and backgrounds enhances employee engagement. It also fosters creativity, problem-solving, and innovation, all of which can lead to better business outcomes.

By building a diverse environment where all voices are heard, you can avoid bias and foster a more inclusive workplace where employees feel valued and respected. Organizations that excel at this tend to attract and retain talent much more effectively than their counterparts.

5. Are You Committed to Employee Career Goals?

Do you emphasize employee growth? Research consistently shows that employees prefer to work with employers that invest in their future by offering professional development opportunities. This boosts employee morale and job satisfaction. At the same time, it means employers have a more skilled, motivated workforce, with people who are prepared to contribute to the organization’s future success.

Commit to Ongoing Growth

When you actively help team members work towards their professional goals by providing continuous learning and growth opportunities, you can expect to see improved morale, satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

These opportunities can take various forms. Initiate regular conversations to understand each team member’s aspirations. Then work with them on an ongoing basis to identify relevant educational paths, stretch assignments, cross-skilling and upskilling opportunities, and mentoring relationships that will enrich their daily work lives and expand their capabilities portfolio.

Employee Experience: A Top-Down Imperative

No doubt about it. Leaders have a direct impact on employee experience — for better or worse.

If you have a leadership role, you can help improve your organization’s culture. It won’t happen overnight. But by focusing on building an environment of authenticity, purpose, recognition, inclusion, and career growth, you can help team members feel more valued, fulfilled, and engaged. And over time, with a consistent commitment to these elements, your organization can improve productivity, retention, and overall organizational success.

It’s not easy. But I assure you, it is worth the effort.

Organizational Transparency is the New Normal - How Open Are You?

Organizational Transparency is the New Normal: How Open Are You?

Imagine this: You’re attending one of your company’s senior staff meetings. The CEO nods and smiles when one executive shares a KPI chart with an upward-trending graph. Clearly, the CEO appreciates seeing how performance is improving. It confirms the management team’s commitment to excellence and its ability to deliver. But these results don’t really surprise anyone. That’s because your company embraces organizational transparency.

In today’s complex business landscape, a culture of transparency is not just a nice-to-have option — it’s a strategic necessity. Why? Because open communication is a catalyst for engagement, accountability, and success at all levels of a company.

What Makes Transparency Tick?

CEOs never aim for mediocrity. They want teams that are highly motivated, engaged, and productive. This is why organizational transparency is so powerful.

Leaders who champion open communication ignite employee trust, commitment, and motivation. In transparent cultures, success isn’t just about hitting the numbers. It’s about creating an environment where people are all in — where team members know they matter and their efforts make a valuable difference.

Who’s Responsible for Organizational Transparency?

The answer to this question isn’t always clear. Certainly, openness starts at the top. But kickstarting the process and keeping it moving requires a partnership between senior leaders and People Operations.

C-suite leaders bring the company vision and goals into focus, while People Ops teams conduct daily tasks that turn that vision into a reality. Their responsibilities include onboarding new hires, managing the employee experience, and supporting workforce growth and success — all efforts that strengthen an organization’s backbone.

By working together, executives and People Ops can keep employees in the know, so their mindset and contributions align with the company’s vision, values, and objectives.

3 Ways to Enable Organizational Transparency

Here’s how People Ops can partner effectively with the C-suite to foster a transparent work environment:

1. Give Employees a Voice

A culture that welcomes feedback is a cornerstone of transparency. Employees deserve a say in how their organization operates, and leaders can promote this behavior by proactively seeking input.

Regularly inviting employees to express their insights, ideas, and opinions creates an environment where communication is accepted as a norm. By working hand-in-hand with executives, People Ops can develop, promote, and manage multiple feedback channels — both open and anonymous.

For example, you can conduct periodic focus groups or town hall forums with employees who are willing to participate in an open dialogue. And for those who prefer confidentiality, you can initiate private interviews and 1:1 conversations.

Also, to calibrate broader sentiment, insights, and trends, you can conduct periodic anonymous pulse surveys and employee net promoter score assessments.

When mapping a strategy, it’s worth noting that 47% of employees aren’t totally honest when sharing feedback with HR. But 56% of those employees are more likely to be honest when their anonymity is assured.

Although managing employee feedback channels may seem complicated, it’s worth the effort. For instance, organizations that listen and act on these findings are 3x more likely to reach their financial targets.

In addition, when you’re receptive to feedback, you build a sense of connection and trust across the organization. Ultimately, this can elevate workforce wellbeing by reducing stress, disengagement, and even burnout.

Bottom line — it pays to offer various feedback options and keep employees in the loop about how you’re responding to their concerns.

2. Share Information Quickly and Consistently

It’s essential for leaders and People Ops to agree on how to treat sensitive company information. Striking the right balance between transparency and confidentiality prevents misunderstandings. This is especially important when communicating about decisions or events that directly affect employees — for instance, when you’re dealing with layoffs, salary changes, or restructuring plans.

Leaders who care about transparency insist on timely, accurate communication. This preserves trust and positions your company as a reliable source.

For example, publishing pay scales and compensation guidelines helps avoid ambiguity and clarifies career advancement paths. Actually, pay transparency laws already cover more than 25% of the U.S. workforce — and this figure could soon rise to 50%. But this is just one reason why transparency is essential in the modern workplace.

3. Make Company Information Accessible

Ready access to information is critical for the kind of awareness and understanding a cohesive culture needs. Partially informed employees can’t be expected to contribute fully to an organization’s success. This is why a variety of communication channels can help you reach team members where they’re at and keep them up-to-date.

Platforms such as town halls, executive “Ask Me Anything” sessions, online chat forums, and email newsletters can play a pivotal role by adding context to announcements about company priorities, programs, and performance. In addition, these channels give employees an opportunity to share direct feedback with decision-makers and discuss their thoughts with peers.

To take full advantage of these channels, you’ll want to provide clear, consistent messaging across the board. Using an integrated People Ops platform, you can gather, track, and analyze internal communications activity data, and map it to broader organizational objectives.

4. Let Go of Lazy Labels

Most employees want to be seen as people. Yet, only 45% actually think their organization views them that way. Transparency can bridge this gap, so you can build a more unified, empowered workforce, where individual strengths and aspirations contribute to a collective success story.

That’s why it’s time to trash stereotypes — especially negative buzzwords. Terms like “lazy girl jobs” and “quiet quitting” aren’t constructive.

This kind of workplace shorthand may seem harmless, but it doesn’t serve anyone well. In fact, it only undermines employees who value work-life balance over work-at-all-cost expectations.

So make no mistake. Transparency isn’t about mindless judgment or brutal honesty. It’s about intentionally creating an environment where people feel like they belong and they can flourish.

This mindset fuels trust, confidence, and commitment through communication that empowers people to contribute their best. Other benefits include:

  • Heightened job satisfaction
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • Increased engagement
  • Strengthened leadership credibility
  • Improved problem-solving

At its best, organizational transparency aligns everyone with shared objectives. From Gen Z to your most seasoned team members, everyone can work more happily and productively when they’re part of a culture based on open communication.

But be prepared. Developing this kind of relationship takes time, consistency, and persistence.

The Case for Transparency

“The Great Resignation” began in 2021, when nearly 48 million people quit their jobs. But experts say the “Real Great Resignation” actually happened last year, when resignations reached nearly 51 million.

What caused so many employees to leave? According to research, 40% of former employees could no longer tolerate a toxic work environment.

Contrast this with people who feel their work culture is transparent. Their job satisfaction rate is 12x greater than others. That’s a key point because satisfied employees are much more likely to stay on board longer.

It’s no secret that employees want to feel supported, respected, and motivated to do their job well. This starts when top-down transparency is baked into your culture. With a genuine, ongoing effort, business leaders and People Ops can cultivate the kind of transparent workplace that attracts great talent, respects them as individuals, and gives them a powerful reason to stay.

Business Innovation Isn't Easy. Here's How Leaders Can Help

Business Innovation Isn’t Easy. Here’s How Leaders Can Help

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023In recent years, digital transformation has been one of the hottest topics in leadership circles. Technology is central to this kind of complex, large-scale endeavor. But success requires more than tools, alone. Operating models and processes must also change. And for continued improvement, business innovation should be part of the mix, as well. Why?

Because technology is constantly moving forward, ongoing innovation can keep your organization ahead of the curve. However, this depends on your ability to anticipate, adjust, and adapt. And that’s where your employees can make all the difference. Your workforce carries a wealth of information, expertise, and creativity. Unlocking that potential is key.

By combining the right technology with effective leadership strategies, you can transform your organization from a static monolith to a dynamic talent magnet, where innovation is a way of life. For more insight, let’s look closer at the relationship between digital transformation, agile leadership, and business innovation…

4 Ways Digital Transformation Fosters Business Innovation

Organizations can benefit in many ways from adopting game-changing tools and processes. These are just a few outcomes to expect from digital transformation:

1. Improved Efficiency

The best next-level tools are designed with efficiency in mind. For example, systems that rely on AI-driven automation and customization make it possible to dramatically reduce workflow bottlenecks and other inefficiencies. By empowering individuals and teams to operate more productively, the entire organization can focus more fully on higher-level tasks and creative challenges.

2. Enhanced Collaboration

Workforce collaboration is essential for business innovation. But it’s not easy to achieve in today’s hybrid and remote work environments. This is where transformative solutions are making a tremendous impact.

By relying on systems that help people directly communicate, coordinate, and stay up-to-date with projects at their convenience, distributed teams can operate even more effectively than they would in person. This makes it possible to include people from around the globe, which means more diverse input for problem-solving, ideation, and other creative activities.

Digital transformation can even improve collaboration among people who work in person at a single location. A myriad of digital applications are available for team scheduling, meetings, and project management so everyone can stay better connected and more productive.

3. Scalability

The ability to scale resources is a serious challenge, especially for younger or smaller companies. When staff workloads are full and growth reaches a peak, how can you continue to scale effectively, while also making business innovation a priority?

Digital transformation helps break through these barriers. By streamlining workflows and activating new pathways that help people bring more creativity to their day-to-day tasks, they can allocate more time to strategic problem-solving and other business priorities.

4. Adaptive Learning

The famous physicist, William Pollard, once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow.”

This rings true for any business that wants to unlock the full potential of its workforce. Unless employees are continuously learning, they won’t have the inspiration or skills to drive innovation. And that means your organization won’t move forward.

But as many organizations discovered during the pandemic, digital learning tools can help make learning more convenient, continuous, engaging, and effective. Now, AI-driven tools are elevating everything from personalized training content and upskilling experiences to online knowledge-sharing forums and performance support at the moment of need.

How Agile Leaders Build a Culture of Business Innovation

In industries where change is a constant, digital transformation is no longer just an option. It’s an imperative. That’s because these organizations face unique issues:

  • How can they adapt quickly?
  • What can they do to stay ahead of the curve when that curve is always changing?
  • How can they attract, engage, and retain high-quality talent over the long term?

The answer to all these questions is business innovation.

The innovation process helps companies continuously adapt, stay ahead of competitors, and engage employees. Yet, merely asking employees to do their jobs differently is not enough.

Instead, ongoing innovation requires a culture shift. And that starts with a serious, top-down commitment. This is where agile leadership methods can help. Agile methods encourage innovation in a way that traditional leadership moves can’t touch. 

What is Agile Leadership?

Agile leadership is a model that values flexibility, adaptability, and continuous improvement above all else. Agile practices stimulate organizational innovation and encourage a culture where people strive to achieve better results by working smarter and more efficiently.

Developing agile leadership and integrating it into your organization takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth the investment. These are the cornerstones:

1. Ensure Dedicated Time

Integrating top-down agility into your organization requires sufficient time for people to apply these practices on a consistent basis. When you establish specific time blocks for leaders and employees to step outside their normal scope of work, they can shift their focus to identify broader issues, generate creative ideas, and explore various possibilities. This lets business innovation blossom where it otherwise wouldn’t have space to emerge.

Also, with dedicated time for training, employees can develop the skills and mindset they need to be more inventive and push boundaries in their current roles. It’s equally important for leaders to devote time to meeting with team members, checking in, and discussing their future. This encourages a more open, collaborative, innovative culture across the board.

2. Emphasize Flexibility

Agile leaders are characterized by their flexible behavior, which in turn, permeates the organization. That doesn’t mean structure is nonexistent. Rather, it’s about being willing to adapt and change your existing structure to better align with market conditions, workforce needs, and your organization’s objectives.

Flexibility is a massive factor in keeping employees happy and encouraging an optimal work-life balance. When people don’t feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, they are much more likely to be engaged, productive, and motivated to support business innovation.

3. Empower Employees 

Agile methodologies were developed specifically with employee empowerment in mind. While traditional leadership models focus heavily on the authority and regulatory power of leaders, agile focuses on team building and working alongside teams to create better solutions.

It’s about establishing common goals and supporting employees as they work on projects and initiatives that matter to them. As a result, empowered employees are more passionate about their work and more creative in framing operational solutions.

The Benefits of Business Innovation

Innovation can be a difficult concept for organizations to quantify and justify. Rather than generating immediate cost savings or revenue, innovation typically is an investment in the future. Regardless, that investment can lead to impressive, long-term impact — especially if your culture is stagnant or your competitive position is slipping.

At its best, innovation can transform your business from the inside out by engaging your employees, revitalizing your work processes, and giving rise to a sustainable competitive advantage. Even if today’s effort falls short, it can still prepare your organization for future success. How? Because you can:

1. Enrich the Employee Experience

When team members feel uninspired or they don’t feel challenged, they’re likely to leave. In fact, these are two of the most common reasons why people quit.

But this isn’t a problem in cultures that welcome new ideas and encourage people to find better ways of getting things done. Companies that encourage innovation at all levels see a noticeable improvement in work culture. That’s because employees become more invested in an organization’s mission, vision, and values when they’re actively contributing to its success. And as employee ideas take root, engagement grows stronger. It’s a virtuous cycle.

2. “Future-Proof” Your Organization

Even if your business is thriving today, it’s impossible to guarantee this will continue. Industries change, market preferences change, and business fortunes can suffer. That’s why business innovation is so important. It could be the key to sustainable success. Why?

When organizations embrace change, employees are more likely to identify and share internal and external issues as they arise. They’re also more willing to work toward solutions that address these challenges.

No business lasts forever. No idea lasts forever. However, committing to continuous business innovation is the key to staying at the forefront of your industry, even through disruption. It can help you keep a leg up on competitors and strengthen your current offerings, while simultaneously improving employee commitment, engagement, and retention.

A Final Note

Talent is called talent for a reason. Indeed, great ideas don’t always come from upper-level management. That’s why leaders should create an environment where team members play an active role in business innovation. It engages team members more deeply. It strengthens your culture. Plus, it brings frontline voices to the table, so you can generate better ideas and implement better solutions.

At first glance, the connection between digital transformation, agile leadership, and business innovation may not be obvious. But if you follow the logic, their interdependent relationship becomes clear. Ultimately, when technology, people, and processes come together for a common cause, the benefits are often much greater than the sum of the parts.

How to Become a Great Manager (And Why It Matters) - TalentCulture

How to Become a Great Manager (And Why It Matters)

Sponsored by The Culture Platform

You probably know at least one great manager. Maybe you’ve even worked for that person. If so, I imagine it was a fulfilling experience. How do I know? It’s a safe bet because research tells us just how deeply managers influence our work experience. For instance:

  • Gallup says managers affect employee engagement and performance more than anything else. In fact, 70% of the variance in a team’s engagement is determined solely by its manager.
  • A Stanford study found that productivity increases by as much as 50% when employees move from a manager with “average” capabilities to a high-quality boss. Not surprisingly, retention is also higher among those with better bosses.

Sadly, great managers are a rare breed. But we can change that. First, we need to understand what it takes to be the kind of manager everyone wants to work for. And that’s exactly what we’re exploring with a management development expert on today’s episode of #WorkTrends…

Meet Our Guest: Ron Ricci

This week, I’m thrilled to welcome a long-time friend of TalentCulture, Ron Ricci. Ron is the founder and CEO of The Culture Platform, the foremost data-based system to measure, manage, and magnify organizational culture.

With more than two decades of experience in leading large teams, Ron is an expert voice on management best practices. Previously, he held multiple senior leadership roles at Cisco, where he managed more than 5,000 employees.

Because he is so passionate about helping managers succeed in what he calls the “post-everything” era, I know Ron has a wealth of ideas to share. So let’s get started!

The Anatomy of a Great Manager

Welcome, Ron. What did your successful career at Cisco teach you about being a great manager?

I knew I was only as good as the people on my team — so to attract the best people, I needed to be a great manager. And to be a great manager, I learned that I had to be really good at setting clear expectations for people.

Being a manager is probably the toughest job in any organization. You sit between leadership’s expectations and your people’s expectations. That’s why it’s critical to be a strong expectation-setter.

Factors Affecting Managerial Success

Why do so many people fail in management roles?

I think this happens for two reasons:

First, being a manager is hard because it involves human-to-human communication. It takes a lot of courage to be a great manager. You have to tell people the truth. You have to follow through on your word. You have to hold people accountable.

So folks fail because they don’t understand how hard it is or how to develop an effective communication style.

Also, I think companies contribute because they’re often very inconsistent in how they act and behave. We’ve all seen it. Companies start a project, then stop it. They launch an initiative, then they don’t fund it. They don’t measure things consistently. Or they don’t have a calendared process to hold people accountable.

Managers need to challenge their company to do better. If companies operate more consistently, managers can do a better job of helping people see future opportunities and move in that direction.

Unsung Heroes

I really feel for anyone who is a manager these days. We talk nonstop about employees and leaders, but managers are left behind…

Good point, Meghan. Over the past few decades, organizations have emphasized leadership and over-invested in employee engagement — and it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Meanwhile, we’ve under-invested in manager training and development.

We have to stop doing something to do something else better. We have to decide that the manager role is more important. We need to help managers improve how they set expectations, so their employees fall in love with their job and kick ass in whatever their role may be.

In my opinion, this is 20 years overdue.

The Manager’s Toolbox

I’m glad you offer a resource called The Manager’s Toolbox. What’s inside?

Rather than over-emphasizing technology, the toolbox focuses on developing the human-to-human communication process every great manager needs. It’s based on three elements:

1) How to align company priorities with a job role.

2) How to measure something people are doing so you can communicate with facts.

3) How to set priorities and make sure you measure things in a consistent way across the organization so there’s no ambiguity.

You can’t really replace this kind of communication with technology. It’s a process.

 


Learn More About How to be a Great Manager

For more insights about developing better managers, listen to this full #WorkTrends episode on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or wherever you tune in to podcasts. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe, so you won’t miss future episodes.

To get a copy of The Manager’s Toolbox, send an email request to Ron at TheCulturePlatform@gmail.com. Also, visit The Culture Platform anytime for details about the company or to schedule a demo.

And whenever you want to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Let’s talk!

Overcoming HR Challenges at Tech Startups

How to Overcome Top HR Challenges in Tech Startups

Human resources can be a highly rewarding profession, especially at technology startup companies. In fact, recent research says effective human resources management actually helps drive innovation — and tech companies are all about innovation! Nevertheless, HR challenges can be tough to manage. So, what can you do to help your company deal with difficult HR issues? Let’s take a closer look…

8 HR Challenges Tech Startups Often Face (And How to Overcome Them)

1. Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

The ability to hire qualified people and keep them onboard is vital for every company, particularly in the technology world. But this is no easy task. Because tech hiring is extremely competitive and time is of the essence in a startup, employers must always be on the hunt for the best and brightest.

To build a strong talent pool, you need to be proactive. Job postings on job sites or social media are not enough. You can’t afford to wait for candidates to come to you. Go out and find people with the skills you need.

Applicants with qualifications like a graduate degree in engineering can help your company grow. To find them, focus on target-rich environments. For example:

  • Campus recruiting at a technical college is a good place to start.
  • Outreach among tech conference attendees can build brand awareness and establish valuable relationships.
  • Offering referral incentives to existing employees can leverage your team’s professional networks.

2. Managing Rapid Growth

Startups are unique because, from day one, you must rapidly scale and expand. This is necessary to make your presence known and gain traction in a fluid, highly competitive industry.

However, the pressure on employees is relentless, and HR teams feel the strain. For example, the continuous drive to grow often leads startups to rush the recruitment process. This can test the limits of even the most seasoned human resources professionals, 98% of whom say they’re feeling burned out.

To remain efficient in a fast-paced environment, outsource extra recruiters to help scale and support your workforce. This interim strategy can be highly successful, as long as your recruiting partners are competent and committed. Also, be sure their values align with your company culture, so you can rely on them to represent your brand effectively.

3. Building an Employer Brand

Establishing and defining your employer brand can be one of the biggest HR challenges for any startup. Because you’re unknown in the marketplace, the race is on to make your brand visible and engaging. Your mission is to appeal to the right talent by differentiating your company in ways that clarify your vision, values, and culture.

The Forbes Human Resources Council says your best brand ambassadors are your staff members. This is particularly true for tech startups. A personal, employee-driven strategy is a compelling way to set your brand apart from larger, more established tech giants.

Call a brand launch meeting to help employees get involved in making your company brand more widely known. Establish an internal team dedicated to employer brand advocacy. They can generate ideas and develop content for your website and social media pages. Also, incorporate staff in ongoing marketing and recruiting videos. Include their anecdotes on your website. The possibilities are limited only by your team’s time, budget, and imagination.

4. Navigating Legal and Compliance Issues

The tech industry’s legal landscape is highly complex. Data privacy and intellectual property rights are only two issues that complicate the already massive task of starting a company that complies with government laws and industry standards. To be a viable competitor in the tech industry, no startup can ignore these requirements.

But tech-related laws are not the only regulations. For example, one of the central HR challenges in any startup is to ensure ongoing compliance with labor laws. Do you have effective policies and procedures in place for this and other people-related issues that arise?

For example, are you prepared to manage discrimination and harassment charges against your organization? High-profile companies like Google and Facebook have come under fire for gender discrimination. Even as a small company, you’ll need to communicate expectations for employee conduct and put a disciplinary framework in place. This protects your team members, as well as your company.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a great resource for a framework that can help you handle discrimination complaints.

5. Creating an Inclusive, Diverse Workforce

Despite great strides in creating a more inclusive society, many companies still struggle to foster workforce diversity and inclusion. This remains a serious challenge for HR in the tech industry. For example, female representation in key roles continues to lag across the STEM spectrum.

The advantage of a startup is that you don’t have to overhaul existing processes that are archaic and outdated. Instead, from the beginning, develop targeted recruitment campaigns that appeal to a wider pool of talent. And adjust interview procedures so they are sensitive to gender and culture differences. Harvard Business School recommends explicitly stating your commitment to inclusion in job descriptions and removing gendered language from interview questions.

We’ve found that a gender-inclusive workforce brings many benefits to the table, including stronger so-called soft skills like communication, adaptability, problem-solving, and empathy. These skills can be invaluable to tech start-ups that rely on collaboration to innovate. As Marta Jasinska, Chief Technology Officer at Bloom & Wild says, “It’s really hard to scale something if you build it on your own.”

6. Managing Distributed Teams

In the aftermath of the pandemic, remote and hybrid work models are increasingly common. This can cause HR challenges involving communication and collaboration.

The tech industry is not immune to these issues, but we’re often better equipped to handle them. In a remote environment, teamwork and communication rely heavily on technology. And many tech teams are already familiar with software that makes distributed team collaboration possible.

But strong communication tools are only part of the equation. What makes or breaks remote work are the processes and social bonds that help team members work productively together. The challenge for HR is to help remote workers feel heard, included, and connected with broader goals, no matter where or when they are working.

You can make this happen by encouraging regular social interactions and team-building activities. For example, establish online chat channels designed exclusively for team members to share personal news and support. This helps remote workers feel like a part of the team, rather than isolated individual contributors.

7. Supporting Work-Life Integration

In addition to recruitment and payroll, HR is also tasked with performance management. This can be tricky in tech startups, where people are often expected to go above and beyond.

However, remote work options are common in the tech sector. Fortunately, remote work tends to support a healthier work-life balance, which in turn, leads to better performance. But how can HR encourage better work-life integration?

This can be particularly challenging at a tech startup. In a company’s early stages, the pressure to succeed is tremendous. Intense entrepreneurial focus and drive are essential. But long work hours and a high-pressure environment can easily become overwhelming.

HR plays a key role in helping employees avoid burnout. Introduce more work model choices: flexible hours, a hybrid of remote and in-office work. Provide regular opportunities for people to unwind and casually interact. Offer wellness activities as ongoing programs and as performance rewards. And provide mental health support so everyone knows they can manage stress privately with the help of a coach or counselor.

8. Developing and Retaining Leadership Talent

Strong leadership is the key to any successful startup. But one person can’t do it all indefinitely. When should a founder start expanding the leadership team?

Look for missed deadlines. These go hand in hand with missed opportunities. Also, when the stress of scaling a business leads to a drop in your quality of work, it’s time to add leadership bench strength.

This is one of the most critical HR challenges in any startup. You’ll need to spot signs of managerial weakness and counsel the founder when the time is right to find additional executive expertise.

Then it’s up to you to identify, recruit, and select leaders for critical management roles like operations and finance and customer experience leaders. Some candidates may emerge internally as they prove themselves in existing roles. In a startup, it can be easier to pinpoint internal candidates with high potential. Other senior roles are likely to be more difficult to fill, so they may require creative sourcing.

A McKinsey analysis says few founders do what’s necessary to reinvent their organization as they move from development to launch, and then into high-growth mode. Once the pressure of bringing a product or service to market passes, it’s vital to invest in developing and supporting other potential leaders from within. This builds a talent pipeline that can step up when a founder is ready to hand off responsibilities. Ultimately, this makes growing a business much easier.

The best way to do this is by delegating specific assignments to new talent while maintaining structure in senior roles. However, this balance continuously shifts as a company scales. You can act as a mediator, adjusting organizational design to minimize the chaos of too little structure while avoiding the bureaucracy of too much.

A Final Note on HR Challenges in Tech Startups

The tech environment is extraordinarily competitive, and recruiting the best talent can be daunting. But hiring for open positions isn’t the only priority. Tech startups face multiple complex HR challenges.

When navigating these various demands, it’s important to balance the needs of the company with the needs of your staff. Sometimes, you may be the only advocate for staff wellbeing, inclusion, or development. Be prepared.

Also, it may be tempting to react to immediate problems each day. Startup teams do that. But while you’re fighting fires, don’t forget to keep the long game in mind.

Leaders Do You Connect Employees With Their Noble Purpose

Leaders: Do You Connect Employees With Their Noble Purpose?

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023When employees feel disconnected from their jobs — or their work doesn’t bring a sense of purpose to their lives — they’re more likely to quit. Unfortunately, this is happening all around lately. Troubling signs like productivity theater and resenteeism are flooding the work zone. Clearly, many employees are struggling to connect their organization’s purpose with their own.

According to McKinsey, 70% of employees find a sense of relevance through work. This doesn’t mean people expect their job to define them 100%. But when personal and business purposes align, everyone benefits. Workforce engagement and loyalty tend to improve significantly. As a result, employees become more willing to advocate for their employer and recommend prospective applicants.

Why should leaders care? Because when you create a culture of psychological safety and compassion, you empower people to be authentic at work. This, in turn, drives commitment, satisfaction, and team performance.

Keys to Connect With Employee Purpose

1. Start by Ensuring Psychological Safety

In a world overflowing with toxic workplaces, psychological safety is more important than ever. No one should have to fear humiliation or punishment when they share concerns, ideas, and mistakes. Everyone should feel free to speak up and support one another without rejection or embarrassment.

The definition of psychological safety isn’t everyone being nice to others all the time. Rather, it is a work environment where everyone is welcome to:

  • Share feedback
  • Challenge the status quo, and
  • Work together to resolve disagreements.

But these conditions don’t materialize out of thin air. They depend on supportive top-down leadership.

2. Facilitate Open Communication

Purpose-driven cultures thrive when leaders consistently encourage a free flow of communication. This is possible when everyone feels a shared sense of ownership and trust.

In practice, trust emerges when all team members are willing to offer peers a “soft landing.” In other words, when a teammate is in a vulnerable position, others recognize and respect their situation and honor their point of view.

When teams approach authenticity with grace, it sends a powerful message throughout the organization. But this won’t start until leaders establish ground rules and set a consistent example for others to emulate in day-to-day settings. As team members become more familiar and comfortable with others’ abilities, personalities, and perspectives, respectful collaboration can naturally take hold.

3. Measure What Matters

Finally, companies that recognize people as their most valuable asset apply appropriate metrics to measure engagement, growth, and satisfaction.

Quarterly pulse surveys can include some probing questions to assess employee sentiment about psychological safety and leadership communication. This provides meaningful data you can use to compare results against historical trends and statistical norms.

Benefits of Connecting Purpose and Work

Studies show that people who live their purpose at work are more productive than those who don’t or can’t. They’re also more resilient, healthier, and less likely to leave their company.

Most of us find this kind of culture appealing. In fact, more than 80% of employees want their employer to value them as humans — not just worker bees. Yet, only 45% actually believe they’re seen this way. This gap is important. It means too many of us feel like mere cogs in an endless wheel designed for others’ benefit.

So, where does the concept of engagement fit into this picture? Successful performance doesn’t happen by accident. It comes when organizations tap into employees’ passions and strengths. People who feel engaged, seen, and heard are more likely to contribute their full selves to work whenever they’re working.

Of course, in today’s “work from anywhere” world, leaders often find it difficult to understand what team members feel internally. This uncertainty can cause them to respond in unhelpful ways. No wonder remote and hybrid employees often find it harder to connect with their organization’s purpose!

The best solution is for leaders to reach out proactively to ensure that team members are finding meaningful value in their work. Building and maintaining those connections takes time, space, intention, and investment. But eventually, as you engage in conversations and build camaraderie unrelated to business tasks, trust will develop and the rest will follow.

Compensation and benefit packages matter to employees. But even the best salaries and perks can’t compare to a purpose-driven culture. People need regular reinforcement to confirm that they are contributing in ways that make a meaningful impact. This kind of human connection only comes when leaders take the time to develop genuine relationships with everyone on their team — and encourage others to do the same.

Building a Culture of Authenticity: One Idea That Works

Although connecting with each employee’s purpose may take time, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Start by committing to bring everyone together in person, even if only periodically or on an annual basis. People naturally want to form human connections with team members, and in-person meetings are the best way to promote that kind of relational energy.

At Authenticx, we’ve established a practice that helps. We invite each team member to choose one word as their own personal beacon for the year. The goal is for everyone to select a term that describes how they’re trying to grow as an individual.

Part of living that word comes from the act of sharing the word’s meaning with others and the journey each of us travels with that intention throughout the year. So we all know each other’s words. Each quarter, we schedule word-sharing sessions to discuss where we’re struggling, where we need to be accountable, and where we’re finding success.

Recently, one of our employees shared the word “engagement.” It’s a perfect word for capturing the need to tap into people’s passions and strengths to achieve business success. When people feel seen, heard, and engaged they’re likely to contribute more fully when they’re working.

We’ve found that this practice opens a window into each employee’s mindset and often offers a new insight into their work role and performance. By learning more about what matters to team members, we can spark more useful discussions. And we see this “single word” exercise as a starting point for these conversations.

A Final Note on Purpose at Work

When people feel empowered, respected, trusted, and valued, they’re more likely to challenge themselves, remain committed, and stay on board. These are worthwhile outcomes for any organization, no matter what the mission may be.

This is why purpose-focused leaders don’t hover, but they do pay close attention. They listen to employees’ needs, tap into their passions, and promote connections across teams. As a result, team members can develop a healthy emotional commitment to their work and resilience that keeps them moving forward — even during difficult times.

Offboarding - How to Give Employees a Fond Farewell

Offboarding: How to Give Employees a Fond Farewell

One of your employees just handed you a resignation letter. What happens next? Are you prepared to set your company’s offboarding wheels in motion?

Situations like this might keep you up at night, especially when a valued staff member decides to move on. It’s natural to worry about how your team will fill the knowledge gap, and how soon you’ll be able to replace an employee who seems irreplaceable.

But sometimes these concerns create unexpected tension between you and the employee who, until this point, enjoyed working at your company. You may want the exit to go smoothly, but despite your best intentions, this kind of transition can go awry. It may even disrupt your work environment and put unnecessary strain on the rest of your team, which can damage morale and productivity.

No employer wants a team member to leave on a negative note. That’s why it’s useful to develop and implement a well-crafted offboarding plan. But what does that look like? First, let’s look at what this process can help you accomplish.

Why Is Effective Offboarding So Important?

Offboarding is an integral part of the departure process for employees, as well as for your business. The right steps can help you:

  • Manage the practical aspects of shifting the employee’s responsibilities to others
  • Gather work-related feedback, so you can identify key issues and improve
  • Minimize security risks (for example, by removing employee access to company accounts and recovering company assets)
  • Prevent legal issues (such as contract or compensation disputes and wrongful termination)
  • Part ways on the best possible terms

By addressing each of these concerns, you can close the employee’s chapter at your company in good faith.

Is It Really Over?

But what if the story isn’t yet finished? What if a departure could be avoided? Offboarding discussions may expose unresolved issues with an employee’s pay, holiday entitlement, pension contributions, benefits, work schedule, location, and more.

If you discover that someone is disgruntled but not fully committed to leaving, you may have the potential to fix these issues and avoid an unnecessary departure.

The key is to pay close attention. Is unhappiness or dissatisfaction with your company motivating someone to leave? If you identify the root cause and resolve it quickly, will the employee reconsider? Each situation is unique. But you may find it worthwhile to address these issues so you can keep a valued employee onboard.

Managing Employee Exits With Grace

Above all, don’t assume an employee’s departure is a personal rejection of you or your company. Staff members leave for many valid reasons. Another company may have offered an irresistible pay increase, a compelling promotion, or more attractive benefits. Or maybe it’s time for a career change.

By keeping this in mind, you can manage offboarding in a respectful way that motivates a departing employee to cooperate in handing off responsibilities with minimal upheaval.

Always try to keep the situation professional and treat the employee fairly, regardless of the reason for their departure. Helping people maintain a positive relationship with your company is important for multiple reasons. It minimizes negative internal consequences and potentially avoids public discord. Also, it reinforces the integrity of your employer brand and preserves your ability to attract strong talent in the future.

Ultimately, when an employee chooses to resign, you cannot stop them from leaving. And if the relationship turns sour, it is often best to let people go, rather than become upset or try to strike a deal.

Watch for Warning Signs, Even Before Offboarding

Sometimes, the first sign of trouble may come long before an employee actually resigns.

For instance, when you meet with a team member for a casual one-on-one conversation, or to discuss a specific concern or disciplinary measure, what response do you receive? Does the employee arrive late, avoid answering questions, appear disengaged, or show other signs of a negative attitude?

If it’s clear this employee is disgruntled, you’ll want to address the issue immediately, honestly, and with an open mind. Perhaps you’ll find that this person doesn’t feel sufficiently supported or compensated. Their actions could be a form of “quiet quitting,” where they refuse to go above and beyond.

By encouraging clear, honest communication, you may be able to address the individual’s specific concerns in a way that improves the employee experience for others, as well.

On the other hand, if a negative employee has already handed in their notice and isn’t interested in discussing solutions, it’s important to let them go. Invite them to an exit interview and do what you can to encourage them to attend.

Offboarding Checklist

To successfully manage an employee’s exit and avoid costly claims, be sure to take these steps:

  • Always acknowledge the resignation or exit situation with a letter explaining logistical steps. This should include the date an employee’s contract will end, the amount of any remaining annual leave, pay arrangements, and instructions for returning any property or equipment.
  • Remind employees before they leave about any contractual obligations that apply, which may include confidentiality clauses and post-termination restrictions.
  • Revoke the employee’s access to IT and security systems. This protects you from anyone who may try to change or delete information before they leave.
  • Emphasize that they are not permitted to remove or share proprietary data or confidential information. Provide a list of documents and details you need from them before they leave, including passwords and relevant client or customer information.
  • If appropriate, conduct an exit interview to clarify any unresolved issues and gather useful feedback. Venting at this meeting can be a type of therapy for exiting staff and provide valuable insights you may want to act upon.

Top Tips for Handling a Difficult Exit Interview

Instead of treating an employee’s exit interview as the full stop at the end of their time with you — or only an opportunity to uncover issues that may be causing them to leave — use this time to collect actionable data you can share with others in your company who want to improve your work culture and reduce future turnover. These guidelines can help:

1. Think of This as the Opposite of a Recruiting Interview

Instead of asking questions about why an employee wants to join the company, you’re asking why they want to leave. This type of conversation may seem uncomfortable, but it is vital. When someone chooses to leave your company, you’ll want to know why. People rarely leave for trivial reasons, and their feedback could provide insights into your company culture or team dynamics.

2. Schedule Exit Interviews on an Employee’s Last Day or Soon After

Why is the timing important?

  • Any sooner, and they might hesitate to share honest feedback while still onboard.
  • Any later, and they may feel distant and disengaged. When this happens, you run the risk of receiving feedback that isn’t as accurate, specific, or complete.

3. Keep it Casual

For example, if you can meet at a nearby cafe, the conversation will feel more relaxed and less like a formal work session.

The way you handle this interview is also important, particularly if you’re facing a difficult situation with an irate employee. Try to listen more than you talk. Avoid responding to feedback. That’s not the objective of this process. You’re not trying to defend the business. Instead, you want to learn as much as possible about how the departing employee perceives things.

4. Take the High Road

Keep in mind that retaliation of any kind is likely to worsen the situation. Even if you want to match the employee’s behavior, resist the temptation. If it becomes difficult to remain calm, consider pausing or adjourning the interview. If you anticipate a volatile discussion, ask a peer to remain close, and request assistance if needed.

5. Document Everything

Remember that you are responsible for the meeting’s tone and agenda. Try to stay focused on your purpose as a fact-finder. Make a note of any unexpected issues so you can return to them later in the discussion. Or reschedule the meeting for a later date if you need more time to gain closure. Make a note of any physical action such as slamming the table, shouting, or storming out of the meeting, so the minutes and outcome of the meeting can reflect the nature of the discussion. Finally, always follow up in writing to document events and outcomes.

How to Ensure a Smooth Departure

For productive handoffs, many organizations turn to trained HR consultants for assistance. This is especially useful if you’re new to the offboarding process or you don’t have sufficient internal resources available to ensure its success.

Relying on specialists for help is a very effective way to be sure that a departing employee can leave your organization on the best possible terms, and a replacement will be ready to step into their role. In addition, you’ll sleep more soundly, knowing you’re prepared to fill the open position with a suitable candidate as soon as possible.

How to Improve Leadership Communication - TalentCulture

5 Steps to Improve Leadership Communication in Your Company

In our constantly changing business environment, one thing remains the same — employees want to hear from their organization’s leaders. People naturally look to decision-makers for answers, direction, and context. Fortunately, most leaders understand and embrace their central role in organizational communication. But some struggle with keeping people aware, informed, and motivated. In these situations, it helps to establish an effective leadership communication program.

What does this kind of endeavor look like? Every organization faces unique challenges and requirements, but these 5 strategies can help you move in the right direction:

An Action Plan For Better Leadership Communication

1. Establish Communication Roles

Effective leadership communication programs have a clear purpose and well-defined roles for leaders at every level in an organization. To start, specify roles for your CEO and members of the senior management team.

Typically, CEOs provide a company’s overall direction, while senior leaders translate abstract, high-level concepts and strategies into concrete, meaningful information. For example, the CEO will share annual business priorities. Then members of the senior leadership team articulate what those priorities mean for their business unit or functional group.

HOW TO GET STARTED:
Help leaders get invested in your program’s success by facilitating a workshop to ensure that everyone understands their specific communication role and how to fulfill it.

2. Make Your Company Strategy Memorable

When we measure employee knowledge of a company’s strategy, we often find that staff members are aware of the strategy, but aren’t sure how they contribute to it. Because leaders spend so much time working with peers to develop, refine, and update business strategy, they may have a blind spot when it comes to employee awareness.

HOW TO GET STARTED:
First focus on helping leaders see your company’s strategy from an employee’s point of view. Then work with them to package the message and connect the dots so employees better understand how they can contribute. Try these steps:

  • Simplify: Distill the primary concept into a few words or a phrase that will resonate.
  • Design: Bring the strategy to life by creating a one-page visual overview that leaders can use to illustrate this concept in meetings, events, and other forums.
  • Collaborate: Encourage employees to participate in discussions about your strategy. This builds awareness, interest, understanding, and buy-in.
  • Distribute: Share a printed version of your short-form strategy statement so employees can display it in their workspace. Make it especially memorable by printing the phrase on swag items people appreciate such as mouse pads, mugs, notepads, thermos bottles, or cell phone cases.
  • Reinforce: Using predefined roles as a guide, ask leaders to refer to company strategy during everyday conversations. For example, suggest that department managers add clarifying statements like, “Here’s how this work supports our overarching strategy…” when they introduce new projects or request process improvements.

3. Leverage Channels That Drive Dialogue

Employees are always interested in opportunities to interact with leaders — from asking questions of the CEO to sharing ideas with the department heads. But tools that work well for desk-based employees may not be ideal for those in labs or manufacturing facilities. So, as you facilitate two-way communication between leaders and employees, be sure to choose a channel that aligns with your organization’s realities.

HOW TO GET STARTED:
Here are 5 dynamic channels that can help you foster interaction:

  • Microblogging: Think of short narrative posts without titles, like long-form posts on Instagram and LinkedIn, or tweet threads on Twitter. Invite employees to add questions or comments to these posts.
  • Coffee chats or snack breaks: Invite a small group of employees for an informal roundtable conversation over coffee or snacks like ice cream, popcorn, or energy bars/drinks.
  • Medium-size meetings: Facilitate a group exercise that solves a known issue, featuring a higher-level leader as a participant.
  • Large group forums: Showcase several leaders if possible, who can offer their unique perspectives on key challenges and interests. Build in polls and provide plenty of time for Q&A. Also, don’t forget to document the discussion and follow up on open items as well as any next steps. It may even be appropriate to redistribute all or part of the content from this meeting with others who didn’t attend in person.
  • Internal social media platforms: Encourage employees to submit questions or suggestions whenever it is convenient for them. It may also be helpful to offer employees the option to participate anonymously. Monitor this online forum to ensure that appropriate leaders respond on a timely basis.
  • Impromptu huddles: Host a five-minute conversation during a shift change or at the start of a day. (Even 5 minutes of casual face-to-face interaction can go a long way with employees!)

4. Develop Content Employees Crave

The best way to create meaningful content that employees want is to learn about their interests. Using easy measurement tools such as an online survey or a poll, ask people to identify topics they want leaders to explore. Then assign topics to appropriate leaders and channels as you develop communication plans.

HOW TO GET STARTED:
For example, when we conducted an intake survey for one of our clients, half of the employees said they wanted to hear more about issues and trends affecting their industry. So, the company added an “industry trends” segment to its town hall meeting agendas.

For topics that may not make an employee’s wish list, encourage leaders to weave in a personal connection with the subject matter, explain its relevance, and underscore its importance. This moves content beyond mere facts and descriptive information. It adds interesting context that employees can’t get anywhere else.

For instance, ask leaders to share:

  • Their unique perspective on the topic
  • A personal story that illustrates a key point. This can be about their work experience or career path, or it could be inspired by their family, hobbies, or community activities
  • Reflections on experiences and conversations that influenced key decisions
  • Lessons learned

Studies show that this type of insight is very inspiring and helpful to employees. Plus, hearing a leader open up and speak from the heart conveys authenticity and builds trust.

Also, remember to continuously assess the impact of this kind of communication via surveys and polls and adjust content accordingly. And when content is particularly successful, be sure to repackage it and redistribute it in other ways.

5. Celebrate Milestones and Successes

It’s no secret that employee engagement levels improve when people know their work is valued. Sincere recognition also has a direct impact on job satisfaction and workforce retention. However, busy leaders may unintentionally overlook opportunities to show appreciation. Internal communicators can close this gap by embedding recognition moments into existing leadership communication channels.

HOW TO GET STARTED:
Here are a few examples that work for our clients:

  • Allocate time to recognize recent staff achievements at every department or team meeting.
  • When a senior leader writes about a business win or key milestone, be sure the article mentions appropriate individuals or teams by name.
  • To honor a significant business achievement, your CEO can send a timely, company-wide email message celebrating this success and encouraging others to congratulate everyone who contributed.
  • When marking a major milestone in any employee’s professional or personal life, your CEO can send a handwritten note to the individual’s home.

A Final Word on Effective Leadership Communication

You can help leaders deliver consistent, high-impact communication when you commit to proven strategies like these. As a result, your organization can expect to benefit through increased organizational alignment, engagement, and productivity. And I guarantee that leaders and employees, alike, will appreciate your efforts.

Employee Motivation Matters. How Can Leaders Help?

Employee Motivation Matters. How Can Leaders Help?

You’re a business leader. You believe in your company with all your heart. Your commitment to the organization’s mission drives you to aim high, work hard, and put in your best effort. However, that’s not the case with your workforce. You want your team to be as dedicated as you are, but employee motivation doesn’t happen by chance. And that’s where leaders too often miss the mark.

In an article about employee appreciation, Harvard Business Review briefly illustrates the problem:

An employee arrives at work on his 10th-year anniversary and finds a gift card with a sticky note on his desk. The note is from his manager, acknowledging his anniversary. Realizing the message doesn’t include a thank-you or congratulations, he rolls his eyes.

This missed opportunity speaks volumes. Just imagine the cumulative impact on morale when this kind of scenario plays out on a regular basis.

Layoffs continue to capture headlines as the economy sputters. Nevertheless, employers are still vying for qualified talent so they can stay competitive. But no one can effectively attract and retain stellar people without inspiring them. And the ability to inspire depends on your willingness to motivate people on an ongoing basis.

Connecting Motivation With Business Benefits

The power of motivation is undeniable. It directly influences multiple business metrics. For example, it can:

  • Boost Productivity and Profitability
    Because motivated employees are more engaged with their work, they tend to be more productive and deliver higher-quality results. In fact, research says highly engaged teams can increase business profitability by more than 20%.
  • Reduce Absenteeism and Turnover
    When motivation and engagement are low, people are more likely to call in sick or resign. The cost of both can be steep. On the other hand, Gallup says organizations with high engagement see significant benefits, with an average of 81% lower absenteeism and 43% lower turnover.
  • Improve Collaboration and Innovation
    Motivated people typically are more content with their jobs. As a result, they’re more open to teamwork and collaboration, which leads to better problem-solving and innovation. They also tend to be more efficient and willing to go above and beyond to achieve business objectives.

Most leaders understand the value of motivation. But motivating people is easier said than done. What can you do to fuel employee motivation? When work starts piling up and engagement is at a low ebb, try these 8 ideas to engage your team and steer them toward success:

8 Ways to Inspire Employee Motivation

1. Communicate the Big Picture

Regularly sharing information about your organization’s vision, goals, challenges, and achievements helps people feel more invested in its success. Here are some effective ways to keep people in the loop:

  • Articulate Your Expectations: This is essential. Unless people know how you define success, and understand how it relates to their roles and output, they have no way to gauge their status or progress.
  • Set Objectives Collaboratively: Work together to set clear, achievable objectives. This helps people grasp the purpose behind their work and how it fits into the company’s broader mission and strategy.
  • Provide Periodic Business Updates: Keep employees informed about how the organization is performing to plan. This is also an opportunity not only to focus on key issues but also to celebrate successes and milestones. Keep in mind that timely, specific public recognition is one of the most effective ways to motivate people.

2. Seek Employee Input

It’s easy to become so focused on top-down communication that you may overlook the value of employee input and feedback. Asking employees direct questions during a group meeting or private conversation lets them know you care about their opinions and are open to their ideas and concerns.

It’s also helpful to periodically gauge overall employee satisfaction and engagement by conducting anonymous surveys. This is an opportunity to remind people that their opinions matter. Ask for feedback about what needs improvement and suggestions for how to improve.

Of course, any input you receive deserves swift attention and action. A timely, thoughtful response tells employees you value their feedback. It’s also a way to demonstrate the kind of loyalty you hope they’ll return by doing their best.

3. Give People Autonomy

Handing employees some control over their work can be a highly effective motivator. This can be as simple as giving people a chance to work on projects they love or letting them choose a schedule they prefer from a variety of options.

When employees have a voice in defining their priorities and daily activities, they’re more likely to feel committed to their work and invested in their results.

4. Reward Success

People will sign up for your mission and stay with your business when you give them a reason to care. And recognizing their efforts is one of the most effective ways to build this kind of connection.

For example, implementing an employee incentive program is relatively straightforward strategy:

  • Focus first on how to align rewards with company values and goals.
  • For each level of achievement assign appropriate awards, such as crystal trophies and cash bonuses, as well as certificates and verbal recognition.
  • Establish clear, attainable criteria for receiving awards, and regularly share program guidelines with everyone who is eligible.
  • Build peer-to-peer recognition into the process, so employees can nominate colleagues for recognition.
  • Celebrate achievements publicly to increase visibility and inspire others.
  • Regularly review and update your incentive program to keep it fresh and relevant.

5. Foster a Positive Work Environment

Formal recognition isn’t the only way to shape employee attitudes and behavior. For instance, leaders can also make a significant impact on employee morale and motivation simply by fostering an open, supportive work environment. This includes:

  • Work structures and processes that encourage teamwork and collaboration,
  • Programs and policies that promote work-life balance, and
  • Opportunities for employees to socialize and form strong bonds.

The important thing to remember here is that, even in small companies, work cultures are complex. The status quote won’t change overnight. If your culture needs to shift, prepare to be intentional and consistent. It may take time, but you’ll be rewarded with lasting business impact.

6. Offer Opportunities for Professional Growth

What better way to motivate people than to enrich their professional knowledge and skills? Especially if your business is expanding rapidly, giving people opportunities to learn, develop, and grow within your organization can be a tremendous incentive.

There are many ways to help people expand their capabilities beyond formal training. For example, consider adding stretch assignments, cross-training, educational reimbursement, mentorships, and internal career advancement to the mix.

7. Lead With Encouragement

Every day brings new opportunities to help employees overcome inevitable mistakes and failures. By encouraging people to focus on continuous improvement, you can help them develop a positive mindset and the determination to see things through.

When projects don’t go according to plan, resist the temptations to start by investigating whose to blame. Instead, focus on working together to identify the root cause and solve the problem. During difficult times, remember to tell people you trust them or send a supportive email message. And be sure to reinforce anyone who takes accountability and steps up to the challenge.

8. Remain Available

No matter how busy your schedule is, make it a priority to be responsive when anyone needs help or advice. Can you blame an employee for becoming frustrated and demotivated if you’re never available to offer guidance, assistance, or approval?

Here’s a sign that you may need to adjust your standards: Think about your one-on-one meetings. Do you regularly postpone these sessions, or blow them off altogether? Don’t be surprised if productivity and engagement are suffering.

A Final Word on Employee Motivation

Any leader who wants to elevate organizational performance and productivity should start with employee motivation. There are multiple ways to move in the right direction, but here’s the bottom line:

If you want employees to commit to your organization, you’ll need to commit your time, attention, and effort to motivate them on a continuous basis. This is clearly a long-game process, but the journey can be one of the most rewarding investments your business will ever make.

What's your best management advice? 13 senior business leaders share useful lessons learned.

What’s Your Best Management Advice? 13 Top Leaders Reply

Management advice is everywhere. But how do you know which guidance to trust? To find truly useful answers, we asked business executives to answer this question:

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice for how to become a better manager, what would you say?

In response, we received excellent management advice from 13 experienced leaders — including company CEOs, founders, and C-level executives. And I’m sure you’ll agree, the collective wisdom they shared reads like a playbook for any aspiring manager who wants to level up:

  • Prioritize Leadership Skills and Embrace Vulnerability
  • Conduct Regular Check-ins and Learn from Errors
  • Practice Active Listening
  • Master the Art of Delegation
  • Respect Individual Ambitions
  • Create a Psychologically Safe Team Space
  • Seek Team Feedback
  • Plan for Contingencies and Create Transparency
  • Foster Open Communication and Employee Understanding
  • Uplift Others and Practice Humility
  • Listen More and Trust Your Team
  • Develop Strong Relationships and Set Clear Expectations
  • Understand Your Management Style

To dive deeper into these responses, read on…

13 Senior Leaders Share Their Best Management Advice 


1. Prioritize Leadership Skills and Embrace Vulnerability

Reflecting on my own professional journey, I would tell my younger self to prioritize the development of leadership skills over technical expertise. Through the years, as I ascended to the C-suite, I realized my role was less about nitty-gritty details and more about guiding the team toward our shared vision.

For instance, when I was a manager, I was deeply involved in the technical aspects of our projects. I prided myself on my ability to solve complex problems. However, as I moved up the ladder, I found that, although my technical skills remained important, they took a backseat to my leadership abilities. It’s essential to inspire my team, manage people through change, and build a strong, inclusive culture.

My unique advice to aspiring leaders is to embrace vulnerability. It might seem counterintuitive, but showing your human side can actually strengthen your leadership. When I started sharing my own challenges and failures with my team, I noticed a significant increase in their engagement and trust.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO, Financer.com

2. Conduct Regular Check-ins and Learn from Errors

I would advise my younger self to become a better manager by checking in with my team. Humans commit mistakes. Smart humans learn from those errors.

I’ve learned that checking in regularly with each employee makes a difference in our business. Talking with people about their short-term and long-term plans and how to achieve them helps employees feel valued. It improves retention, for sure.

Regular conversations give you a chance to gauge employee satisfaction when it comes to workload. Then you can make adjustments if needed. Early on I failed to do that, which caused us to lose people with strong potential. However, I’ve learned from experience, and am doing better now.

Eli Pasternak, CEO, Liberty House Buying Group

3. Practice Active Listening

If I could go back in time, I would practice active listening. Initially, I focused on sharing my ideas more than understanding my team. Now I recognize the value of listening. It’s important to seek feedback and create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Regular one-on-one meetings and open forums encourage dialogue and collaboration. These practices improve engagement, productivity, and satisfaction.

That’s why I urge mid-level managers to prioritize communication and active listening. Encourage people to engage in meaningful conversations and open dialogue. This unlocks team potential and opens the door to innovation and overall success.

Josh Amishav, Founder and CEO, Breachsense

4. Master the Art of Delegation

I would tell my younger self to accept the fact that I can’t do everything myself. Delegation is a critical skill both for maturing as a team leader and growing a business.

When I was just starting to get the company off the ground, I had an intuitive desire to handle every process myself. Finance, marketing, client management — I spent half of my working time trying to touch areas where I lacked expertise.

Eventually, I saw how unproductive and ineffective that approach was, so I began handing off small tasks. But team members couldn’t see the big picture, so small-scale delegation didn’t help either.

Finally, I realized how important it was to trust my team and rely on their expertise without trying to interfere with their work. Today, I’m lucky to have a team of professionals by my side who let me focus on activities that will yield the highest returns and grow the company.

Tatsiana Kirimava, Co-Founder and CEO, Orangesoft

5. Respect Individual Ambitions

As a driven leader, I used to project my ambition onto my team, expecting everyone to have the same level of commitment and desire to progress professionally. But over time, I realized not everyone aspires to be a C-suite executive — and that’s okay.

It’s crucial to respect the unique ambitions of each team member instead of imposing your own aspirations on them. When I made this mental shift, I saw improved team dynamics and productivity. Moreover, it alleviated unnecessary frustration, allowing me to find greater satisfaction in my work.

Remember, demanding too much from your team can lead to dissonance. Ask people about their goals and ambitions, and you’ll unlock a more harmonious, effective working environment.

Rafael Sarim Öezdemir, Founder and CEO, Zendog Labs

6. Create a Psychologically Safe Team Space

If I could turn back time, I’d tell myself to create a safe space for the team. I never aimed for psychological safety, but it happened. Team members have confided they feel safer than at previous jobs.

Once, a member of our marketing team spotted a software issue. She spoke up without fear, and we fixed it together. Another time, a new guy from the UX team suggested that we add an automation process. Despite being new, he didn’t hesitate to share.

It’s hard to calculate the financial impact of this but I’m sure that psychological safety makes a difference between failure and a team that prospers.

Vladislav Podolyako, Founder and CEO, Folderly

7. Seek Team Feedback

If I could go back in time, I would actively seek more feedback from my team. I used to be close-minded. I believed I had all the answers. However, I soon realized that true growth and improvement come from embracing diverse perspectives and valuing input from others.

By creating an open, safe environment where my team feels comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns, I’ve been able to foster more collaboration and innovation. Also, I’ve gained valuable insights that help me make better decisions and ultimately become a more effective leader.

Chris Muller, Vice President, Money Under 30

8. Plan for Contingencies and Create Transparency

I would encourage myself to make contingency plans a priority. Although planning for success is obviously critical, having backup strategies in place can help address unexpected obstacles that arise.

Effective contingency plans help decision-makers recognize that their leader has fully evaluated the situation and taken appropriate measures to adjust and move forward.

By nature, I am an organized person, so I tend to anticipate potential obstacles and map out other options. But earlier in my career, I wasn’t always transparent about this.

Failing to communicate about contingencies sometimes made my staff uneasy, so I missed opportunities to gain their trust. However, over time, I learned to take proactive steps to support staff through change and reassure them that a Plan B was available.

Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack

9. Foster Open Communication and Employee Understanding

In the past, I’ve seen many problems come from miscommunication and thoughts left unsaid. I know top talent left the company when they felt unheard and underappreciated because their opinions did not receive enough attention. This is why my management advice would be to foster more open communication and listen more closely to employees.

For example, it’s important to conduct satisfaction surveys so you can understand staff concerns and take action to make the work environment better. This reduces employee turnover, as well as the cost of training new hires. It also builds a positive company culture that attracts great people and keeps them on board.

Jeff Moore, CEO, Everyday Power

10. Uplift Others and Practice Humility

“Talent doesn’t give you license to be an a**hole.”

I was both blessed and cursed with many natural gifts and talents. I was creative, charismatic, a born salesman, and a spotlight hog.  When I got the chance to be “the boss,” I assumed I had a responsibility to share my awesomeness with everyone and prove that I could do their job as well or better than they could.

What a jerk I was!

Through the words and actions of various true leaders, I’ve come to realize that great leadership requires humility, patience, and the ability to lift others up to levels they never thought possible. I’m so grateful to those who were patient enough to give me the latitude to figure it out on my own. Today, as a sales and leadership trainer, I’m “paying it forward” by helping others avoid the mistakes I made.

Bill Guertin, Chief Learning Officer, ISBI 360, LLC

11. Listen More and Trust Your Team

When I think back, I remember times when stress was high. People on my team were feeling disconnected and lost trust in me because I communicated much more than I listened.

But leadership is not about being in the front of the team, always speaking or telling people to execute tasks and ideas. Effective leaders do just the opposite.

By practicing saying less and listening more, I stopped believing I needed to carry everything on my shoulders. I learned that people want to feel like they are heard and their contributions matter.

Listen first and believe that your team can add value and succeed. Nurture them so they feel you trust their decisions. Right or wrong, we can learn from our mistakes and create better solutions.

So speak less, inspire those you lead, and trust that your direct reports will rise and deliver great results.

Michele Delgado, CEO, Hartmetrics

12. Develop Strong Relationships and Set Clear Expectations

One piece of advice I would share with myself is to have the courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the time to develop strong relationships with my team.

Strong relationships are key to being a successful leader. Before taking any action, it’s important to understand the motivations and viewpoints of each team member, so you can make informed decisions based on their unique needs. So encourage people to express themselves openly. And when they share ideas, listen actively.

Also, make sure expectations are as clear as possible. Setting expectations up front makes it easier to develop an environment conducive to collaboration and innovation.

Leadership is about inspiring and encouraging your team to do great work. Ensure you acknowledge their efforts, offer guidance, and provide constructive feedback to help them grow. By providing reinforcement and support, you can foster a culture of respect, trust, and appreciation.

Nataliia Tomchyshyn, Marketing Manager, Relokia

13. Understand Your Management Style

Early in my career, I didn’t recognize my management style. Although this is not a necessity, it helps to know your style and how it works in a real-world environment.

For instance, if your approach is more participative, take time to understand the steps involved and their implications. For example, talk with managers who’ve used this approach and learn about its impact. This discovery process doesn’t need to be lengthy, but it can be revealing.

I planned to manage my team based on my predecessor’s advice. Although this helped, it took a long time to develop and test my approach. Fortunately, everything eventually worked out. But the sooner you can get a grasp of your style, the better.

Marco Andolfatto, Chief Underwriting Officer, Apollo Cover

 

Why is great leadership like a Fine Watch? - TalentCulture Article

Why Is Great Leadership Like a Fine Watch?

A fine mechanical watch is exquisite in its own right. But if you look closer, you’ll see more than just a special timepiece. It is also useful as a framework for leaders who want to improve the quality of their organization’s performance. What does that leadership framework look like? Here’s my perspective…

I’m continually amazed at how unrelated things in life tend to line up with almost perfect timing. Nearly a year ago, I decided I wanted to own a “real watch,” so I began researching popular brands. Around the same time, I was recruited to run Birkman International. Birkman is a 72-year-old company that provides businesses with a roadmap that helps teams work better together and drive operational performance.

These two unrelated events have allowed me to witness the elegance and intricacies that both watches and companies need to run well.

What Do Watches Teach Us About Great Leadership?

Imagine opening the case back of a mechanical watch. Inside you’ll find what seems like a highly complicated collection of gears and wheels. Most of us only open our watch when there’s a problem with its function. The same holds true for businesses — we never seem to look inside until we detect an issue.

In a properly functioning company, each individual, department, and team knows its role. They work at the right pace to accomplish their respective tasks. It is all about coming together at the right time to achieve success. Just like clockwork.

Look Inside

When you open the back of the case and look carefully, you’ll see that it is powered by a mainspring. Without it, the entire mechanism won’t work. The same is true with any company.

The mainspring of the business is the CEO who provides the power needed to drive the business forward. As the mainspring, a CEO is responsible for keeping the organization under a kind of tension that creates motivation, movement, and results over time. However, to ensure consistently high performance, this tension must be released in a regulated way.

This is where the Chief Operating Officer (COO) steps in to serve a critical function. The COO is an organization’s balance wheel. This leader is responsible for distributing the power generated by the CEO, releasing it to the rest of the organization at a steady, reliable pace, like the hands of a watch.

However, unexpected things happen sometimes. For example, what if you accidentally drop your watch? The balance wheel absorbs the shock and ensures that the movement keeps spinning at the right rate. Similarly, unexpected things will happen at work. Regardless, the COO ensures that daily business operations continue to run smoothly and reliably.

A Fine Watch at Work

Once a watch’s power is being created and released at the correct pace, it’s up to the gears and wheels to do their job. But first, these components must be positioned in all the right places. Likewise, employees must be placed in the right position before they can move your organization forward effectively.

For any watch (or any company) to perform well, the real trick is to make sure every “right wheel” works with all the other “right wheels.” This is when the elegance of a great organization reveals itself. It is also when underperforming teams require careful attention. Leaders may need to open the “case back” of their organization and diagnose issues by investigating two questions:

  1. What is stopping us from achieving the desired results?
  2. How do we get things running the way they should?

The good news is that, often, new parts aren’t required to fix a broken watch. The same is true in business. Throughout more than 30 years as an executive, I’ve found that organizational problems aren’t rooted in individual employees, but in the friction between all the moving parts. This is why great leadership can make a significant difference.

Making Everything Run Like Clockwork

If you take a watch apart, clean the pieces, reassemble it, and oil it, you end up with a wrist piece that runs properly. Likewise, if we take sufficient time and care to work with our people, we’re likely to find an effective solution to any problem.

In business, “oil” is the understanding of ourselves and others’ needs. This helps us communicate well with people so they can overcome the friction that arises from misunderstanding and mistrust. This gives us the ability to move forward in unison.

To maximize business results, leaders must take time to break down what their organizations are doing at their core. When we define our company’s purpose, bring it into focus with laser-sharp clarity, and provide a psychologically safe environment for team members to communicate, we build a foundation for truly remarkable results.

When we add oil to watch components, the mechanisms come to life. The same holds true for businesses. The latest technologies may increase efficiency, but they cannot reduce human friction within a team. Similarly, a modern smartwatch may be a reliable way to keep track of time, but it does not compare to the craftsmanship of a fine watch.

Effective Leadership Endures

The tagline of luxury watchmaker Patek Phillipe is, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” In other words, if you properly care for one of their watches, it will last hundreds of years.

This aligns with my approach to leadership. I believe executives are merely caretakers for their successors. As the leader of a business now entering its third generation, I take heart in knowing that if we do the work to improve ourselves and better our organization, our impact on the world will be an enduring legacy.

I hope leaders everywhere share the same vision. The future of business depends on it — as does the future of work.

Are you turning into THAT boss? 4 red flags that indicate you need to improve

Are You Turning Into THAT Boss? 4 Red Flags

We often hear that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. We all get what that means. But what does it mean for those of us who take on broader roles? As we rise through the ranks, we silently vow never to become THAT boss. You know the one. It’s the manager employees fear and avoid — the one they talk about in hushed tones or in private Slack messages.

How do you know if you’re morphing into the very kind of leader you swore you’d never become?

At a time when companies are struggling with an uncertain workforce, high turnover, and a lack of employee engagement, leaders must stay focused on talent retention. This means you’ll want to be extra careful not to become your employees’ worst nightmare.

But what kind of signals indicate that you’re the kind of boss no one wants? And how can you steer clear of this fate? Let’s take a closer look…

4 Signs You’re Becoming THAT Boss

1. THAT Boss Replaces Flexible Work Options With Rigidity

The pandemic dramatically changed our work environments. Now, after working remotely for more than three years, many leaders are eager to see an office full of employees. But some are moving too swiftly and going to extremes.

Rather than retaining some of the flexibility that became the norm when many of us were working from home, some leaders are intent on forcing employees to return to pre-COVID office standards. Yet according to multiple studies, employees prefer flexible work options. In fact, research shows that productivity and collaboration don’t need to suffer when team members work from various locations.

For example, according to The Hackett Group, professionals want to work remotely 60% of the time and in the office 30% of the time. This clearly indicates that employees want the flexibility to work on their own terms. This study also found that employees who can choose their work location are more engaged. Specifically, engagement increased among 58% of those with work flexibility. Also, these respondents indicated greater willingness to remain with their current employer, rather than look elsewhere.

Some leaders are concerned that employees who aren’t working in the office may not feel connected or engaged with their team. This has prompted them to implement hybrid work policies. But the Hackett Group found no change in collaboration or engagement when comparing hybrid and work-from-home models. In fact, respondents who are free to choose a flexible work model said they feel more connected with team members and with their organization’s values, mission, and culture.

2. THAT Boss Needlessly Cuts Pay and/or Benefits

Budgets are tighter — and inflation and economic upheaval aren’t making the situation any easier. In this kind of situation, leaders may be tempted to reduce compensation and benefits. After all, payroll is usually an organization’s biggest overall cost.

But unless your company is truly in dire straits, these cuts can be a serious morale killer. It sends a message that you undervalue employees. Even worse, it suggests that you aren’t willing to invest in keeping exceptional talent onboard. This can leave some of your most critical employees feeling overworked, under-appreciated, and frustrated. Ultimately, they may even become burned out.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that although salary is a key issue for employees, it’s not the only factor they consider when deciding whether to stick around.

According to recent Forbes Advisor research, 40% of employers say employees leave because they’re attracted to better benefits elsewhere. In other words, today’s workforce places a high priority on health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, mental health support, paid time off, and other employer-sponsored programs.

This may seem obvious, but as a leader, you need to ensure that your team’s basic needs are covered. This starts with fair, competitive pay. But if you also offer diverse benefits that support employee wellbeing, people will be much more inclined to stay onboard and do their best, even during difficult times. 

3. THAT Boss Doesn’t Show Appreciation

Don’t ignore the efforts of your greatest asset — your people. Attitude costs you nothing, and an attitude of gratitude goes a long way toward helping people feel they’re valued and they belong. In fact, workplace surveys consistently show that employee appreciation and recognition programs help boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, lift engagement, and drive better business results.

There is actually science behind this. Genuine recognition and appreciation meet employees’ basic psychological needs. This is why several studies equate consistent work recognition with higher pay in terms of providing a fulfilling employee experience.

We also see this in data at my company, CardSnacks. We offer electronic greetings and gift cards for holidays of all types. However, our business category is driven by ongoing employee recognition and appreciation, not just specific calendar events like Employee Appreciation Day or Administrative Professionals’ Day.

It’s easy to send someone a quick note or a gift card along with a heartfelt thanks. Even that small investment in time and resources strengthens your connection with employees in ways that boost their commitment and productivity.

4. THAT Boss Flubs Communications

Employees look to managers for leadership every day. Good leadership requires strong communication. Don’t just focus on your team’s mistakes and what hasn’t been done yet. Instead, speak with empathy, communicate clearly, and try to inspire others. As a manager, make it your mission to act like the person you’ve most enjoyed working with in your career.

Also, remember to maintain an even keel. Organizational life is a continuous cycle of highs and lows. Effective leaders know a steady hand is essential to navigate the storms of business life. If you create an environment where people feel they’re lurching from crisis to crisis, it won’t be long before valued team members start jumping ship.

So stay calm, pick the right words, and set the right tone. The better you communicate, the better your results will be as a manager, and the more people will want to work with you.

Don’t Become THAT Boss

No one needs you to be the worst kind of boss. Instead, you can choose to listen to your staff, show empathy and gratitude, and ensure that everyone receives compensation and benefits that outshine your competitors.

You can create a work environment that encourages your employees to be successful on their own terms. If you do this, I guarantee, you’ll never need to look in the mirror and see the boss you never wanted to be.

Why It Pays to Lead With Purpose - TalentCulture Article

Why It Pays to Lead With Purpose, Especially Now

These days, any employer that doesn’t lead with purpose is fighting an uphill battle. Why? Take a look at recent headlines. They’re filled with news about troubling workplace trends. Specifics vary, but the coverage points to a common underlying theme — hiring and retaining skilled workers continues to be a monumental challenge.

The problem stems from a confluence of factors. For example:

How can employers turn this situation around? It seems the solution begins when we focus on purpose.

Can Purpose Really Reverse Tough Work Issues?

Although the recent surge in employee resignations has cooled, workforce satisfaction and disengagement remain alarmingly high. As a result, other disturbing trends are emerging — from “quiet quitting” and “bare minimum Mondays” to “resenteeism,” and “rage applying.

None of this reflects well on the state of today’s workforce. In fact, multiple studies indicate that more than 50% of employees are actively looking for a new position. No wonder employers are still struggling to figure out how to re-engage existing employees, attract qualified new hires, and create a work culture where people flourish and feel a sense of belonging.

To address these challenges, smart leaders are leaning into the power of purpose. This isn’t a quick or easy solution. But when business decisions reflect a genuine desire to lead with purpose, it opens the door to organizational transformation.

Today’s workforce is attracted to companies that genuinely care about tough societal issues and take action to resolve these issues. In other words, employees are interested in organizations with strategies that reach beyond revenue and productivity, alone. They want to work for companies that are committed to more meaningful metrics.

How to Lead With Purpose

What can leaders do to embed purpose into business strategies? For answers, we recently surveyed more than 1000 senior executives from U.S. companies. The findings underscore how purpose is gaining influence in The Future Workplace. Here are four key leadership recommendations:

1. Integrate Purpose With Talent Strategy

Start by prioritizing purpose in the battle for talent. Why? Our survey confirms that sustainability and purpose are top of mind for employees, with 75% of leaders agreeing that a business strategy built on purpose is essential for talent recruitment and retention. In addition, 86% of respondents say this strategy should play a central role when evaluating employee performance.

Younger people are deeply concerned about this. In fact, Deloitte research indicates that 39% of Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and 42% of Gen Z employees (born between 1997 and 2012) are prepared to leave their jobs if they aren’t satisfied with their employer’s commitment to sustainability.

To build purpose into workplace culture, it’s important to align your vision and processes with employee and stakeholder feedback, ensuring all voices are heard and everyone has a seat at the table. As a leader, you can do this by consistently focusing on these action items:

  1. Invite employees to regular meetings where business decisions are discussed, and encourage them to share concerns and ideas.
  2. Pay attention to employee feedback. Gather and analyze input from surveys and other internal forums that encourage dialogue.
  3. Develop and implement process and policy improvement plans based on employee concerns and suggestions.
  4. Host regular “town hall” meetings to share information about organizational priorities, goals, and progress, as well as the path forward. This helps ensure that all staff feel welcome to come along on the journey.

2. Put Purpose at the Heart of Value Creation

Beyond improving talent recruiting and retention, what else can you do to lead with purpose? Consider everything you do to create business value.

58% of our survey respondents say it’s essential for companies to create value in ways that benefit all stakeholders — employees, partners, customers, and communities, as well as shareholders. This extends to “earning profits in a sustainable way,” which includes minimizing any harm the business may cause to society.

Another 17% said organizations should “contribute to solutions for challenges confronting people and society as a means of earning profits and generating long-term stakeholder value.”

It should be easy for anyone to see how your business creates value and ensures sustainability across its extended ecosystem. Operational efforts that support sustainability should be clear and transparent. This includes everything from budgeting and office design to workplace culture and how you champion change.

To prioritize value creation and sustainability efforts, generate an open dialogue about how your organization can embrace a mission that puts people and the planet first. As you move forward, invite employees to assess their own societal and environmental impact. Also, be sure to ask employees and other constituents for feedback on an ongoing basis.

3. Openly Define Your Purpose

Transparency is also essential in how any organization defines and demonstrates purpose. Creating a purpose statement combines two key elements: setting goals and identifying intentions. This helps leaders and employees accomplish short-term tangible goals, while they simultaneously consider long-term aspirations and potential actions that can more broadly impact society.

Interestingly, 80% of our survey respondents say their company already has a formal statement of purpose that is “well-established and integrated with our strategies,” or they recently developed this kind of statement and they intend to use it as a guide for future culture change.

Only 1% do not have a statement of purpose beyond generating shareholder value, and they don’t expect the status quo to change.

It is also worth noting that business leaders assign real value to these statements. In fact, more than 75% told us they “strongly agree” that a statement of purpose is an effective guidepost. What’s more, a majority also strongly agree that a defined purpose is central to their business success.

4. Weave Purpose Into Your Employee Experience

Effective leaders recognize the connection between purpose and workplace dynamics. This includes supporting individuals who want to work remotely at least part of the time. After all, the future of work is not about working from home or in the office, per se. It’s about having the flexibility to work effectively wherever, whenever and however you choose.

Clearly, if employers want to remain competitive in the future, they need to offer flexible work options that align workforce preferences with business realities. Research indicates that this is especially true for employers in the tech, retail, telecom, manufacturing, and energy sectors.

That said, smart employers are moving beyond strict RTO mandates that force people to work on-site. Instead, they’re proactively making their office environment more inviting and productive. For example, 98% of our survey respondents are taking steps to improve the in-office experience. This includes adding direct rewards and benefits for on-site work, training managers in “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence, or investing in workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Purpose Leads to Lasting Business Benefits

Businesses can no longer afford to discount or ignore changing workforce dynamics. As you navigate these changes, be sure to remember the increasingly pivotal role purpose plays in your company’s ability to recruit and retain talent. This includes new ways to attract and engage job candidates, as well as ways to develop and motivate people once they’re onboard.

Ultimately, this approach can create broader opportunities to strengthen and advance your organization’s position in the global marketplace. Companies that do this effectively are rewarded with improved productivity, profitability, and a brand that represents an enduring sense of purpose.

So, if you want to stay ahead of the pack in the years to come, start answering this question today: “How will we lead with purpose in the new workplace?”

What are the benefits of being a podcast guest? And what success tips can help you know? Check this advice from a long-time podcast producer

5 Benefits of Being a Podcast Guest and How to Prepare for Success

In less than 20 years, podcasting has revolutionized the way we consume and engage with informational content, offering a powerful digital platform for individuals to share their knowledge, experiences, and ideas. Today, with more than 5 million podcasts attracting 464.7 million listeners worldwide, overall podcast reach is staggering. And every podcast guest has a unique story to tell.

Why Preparation Is Everything

Over the past 12 years at TalentCulture, I’ve helped hundreds of HR practitioners, business leaders, analysts, and authors prepare to appear on our popular #WorkTrends show. And along the way I’ve learned just how vital it is for every podcast guest to plan ahead. If you understand what listeners expect and how the production process will unfold, you’ll be better equipped to share your insights, advice, and expertise on a global stage.

Preparation makes all the difference. The process isn’t difficult, but it can have lasting consequences. Who knows? Just one solid, memorable podcast guest appearance could change your career path for you or open a new chapter for your business.

Tips for Podcast Guest Success

Whether you’re a subject matter expert, a business leader, an industry analyst, or an author, being a podcast guest is a valuable opportunity to connect with a broader audience and amplify your voice. But with so many podcasts, you’ll want to choose one that fits your message and personality.

As you explore the multitude of options, don’t just look at total reach. Also consider things like the theme and tone, audience composition, frequency, brand reputation, and familiarity. These factors will steer you to podcasts that can showcase your particular story in the best light.

And once you’ve been booked to appear on a relevant podcast, you’ll want to be ready to shine. Here are tips to help you prepare:

CONTENT STRATEGY

  • For context, listen to other episodes of the podcast and others focused on similar topics.
  • Verify the length of your interview, so you can work within expected time limits.
  • Think about the story you want to tell. How can you help listeners relate to it?
  • Create a list of key points for quick recall as you tell your story.
  • Use data and case studies to support your statements, if possible.
  • Organize your messages to fit the timeframe.
  • Prepare a list of questions for the host to ask.
  • Practice thorough responses, but be prepared to summarize or jump forward if the host moves in that direction.

TECHNICAL AND LOGISTICAL DETAILS

  • Ask if the conversation will be streamed live or recorded and edited.
  • Will it be produced with audio, video, or both formats?
  • Familiarize yourself with the podcast platform, as well as tools that can help you look and sound like a professional. (For example, is your laptop microphone sufficient?)
  • Be sure to request a tech check before the live podcast.
  • Confirm whether you’ll need to log in through a specific portal/app, or if you should call in.
  • Choose your location wisely. You’ll want to be in a quiet room with a closed door.
  • If you’re using an online portal, shut down any alerts on your computer and switch your phone to mute or vibrate mode.
  • Wear a headset or use AirPods for better audio fidelity.

PRODUCTION AND PROMOTION

  • If the session is recorded, ask if you can listen to the episode before it is published.
  • Verify if you have the option to request edits.
  • Keep in touch with podcast producers, so you can align your promotional efforts with the show’s marketing plans.

5 Benefits of Being a Podcast Guest

Participating in podcasts can be rewarding both personally and professionally. In particular, appearing on a popular show like #WorkTrends can amplify your voice, extend your influence, and open doors to exciting new opportunities. For example, it can help you:

1. Expand Your Network 

One of the biggest advantages of being a podcast guest is the opportunity to expand your sphere of influence. The connections you make can have a lasting impact on your career trajectory. You can connect with hosts, fellow guests, and listeners with similar interests. This can lead to enduring collaborations, partnerships, and friendships that enhance your personal and professional growth. Moreover, podcast hosts typically have their own networks, which can expose you to new opportunities, introductions, and potential clients or customers.

2. Build Credibility

As a podcast guest, you are showcasing your distinct knowledge and perspective. By sharing your experiences and know-how with listeners, you establish yourself as an authority in your field. This credibility can enhance your professional reputation, open doors to other speaking engagements, and increase your chances of being quoted or featured in industry publications. Think of it as a platform to demonstrate your expertise and offer valuable insights, which can solidify your position as an industry thought leader.

3. Increase Brand Awareness and Visibility

Being a podcast guest is an excellent opportunity to build brand awareness. Podcasts often have dedicated, loyal listeners who are actively engaged and interested in the topics discussed. Sharing your story, expertise, or insights about a product or service can generate awareness and interest in your individual brand or business. When you participate in meaningful podcast conversations and your message resonates with listeners, organic word-of-mouth marketing naturally follows. Also, podcasts are often distributed through multiple channels (Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, and many more). This further extends your reach beyond the original podcasting network.

4. Reach New Audiences 

Podcasts attract diverse listeners from all walks of life. This means you’re likely to reach new, untapped audiences. As a podcast guest, you can connect with people who may not have encountered your work or brand through other channels. This broader exposure can increase followers, subscribers, and customers. In addition, podcasts often have global reach that transcends geographical boundaries. This further extends your ability to influence new demographics and communities. You can leverage your podcast appearance by posting about your episode before and after on social media. You may even want to write one or more blog articles about the discussion, emphasizing key points and expanding on the topic in ways you didn’t have time to address with the host. By adding a link back to the podcast episode from these articles, you can drive even more downloads.

5. Improve Communication Skills 

Participating in podcast interviews can significantly enhance your communication and presentation skills. Podcast hosts often ask thought-provoking questions, challenging you to articulate your ideas clearly and concisely. This experience can improve your ability to think on your feet and engage in meaningful conversations. In fact, the preparation process, alone, can be valuable. Synthesizing complex information into a storyline based on simple sound bites makes it easier for listeners to understand and connect with your message. Also, you can apply this messaging to other communication efforts in the future. Plus, the communication skills you develop are transferable to other aspects of your life, such as formal and informal meetings with industry colleagues, employees, and customers.

Interested in Being a Podcast Guest?

I hope I’ve convinced you to share your unique insights through the power of podcasts. As someone who has been on both sides of the microphone, I can assure you that the process of producing an episode is fascinating and even fun. It’s also one of the best ways to grow.

Because #WorkTrends welcomes professionals from across the HR spectrum, I am continuously learning from smart people about the latest ideas and best practices in leadership, talent acquisition, employer branding, HR technology, and the future of work. And listeners seem to agree because they keep coming back for more. That’s one of the reasons why #WorkTrends download volume is among the top 6-7% of all podcasts, globally, according to Buzzsprout (in April 2023). 

If this article has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more, I invite you to submit this inquiry form. In response, we’ll send you information about how you can become a featured guest on the #WorkTrends podcast. 

Where Does Workplace Diversity Belong Now? Meghan M. BIro takes a close look at key trends in diversity, inclusion and belonging since the early days of the pandemic and beyond.

Where Does Workplace Diversity Belong Now?

Are you disturbed by news about organizations backtracking on workplace diversity and inclusion commitments? I certainly am. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article declared “The Rise and Fall of the Chief Diversity Officer.” Is this just hyperbole, or is it cause for serious concern? Either way, we can’t brush it under the rug.

After all, only 3 years ago, employers were scrambling to advance DEI initiatives. For many, this included new C-level positions with sweeping responsibilities. According to LinkedIn, from 2019-2021, demand for senior workplace diversity executives grew nearly 170%. This easily outpaced hiring for every other C-suite role.

But now, the pendulum is rapidly swinging in the opposite direction, and workplace diversity leaders are taking the hit. In fact, C-level DEI hiring actually shrank last year at a rate of -4.5%. And DEI positions are the only ones moving in a negative direction.

Why such a swift, dramatic shift? Multiple factors are driving these decisions. But sadly, HR is getting caught in the middle. As a former Chief Diversity Officer at a major U.S. hospital system says, the hiring spree now feels like a “knee-jerk reaction” that didn’t create much impact and left both sides feeling disillusioned.

DEI at Work: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back?

So what’s really happening here? Is DEI frozen in time — or worse, losing ground? Here’s another top DEI executive’s opinion:

“Some employers may have neglected or even paused their diversity and inclusion programs. In the short term, this may seem understandable given the extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Long-term, however, it will come back to haunt you when the economy improves and you need to compete for talent again.”

Given current workplace DEI issues, this may seem like a recent statement. But surprise — it’s actually from a July 2020 article by LaFawn Davis of Indeed.

At the time, LaFawn was VP of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB), where she led efforts to remove bias and barriers in the company’s products and its work culture. Since then, her role has expanded. She now serves as SVP of Environmental, Social & Governance, and her commitment to DIB is just as resolute.

Timeless Insights From a DEI Leader

With all the mixed news about workplace diversity lately, I decided to revisit a conversation I had with LaFawn late in 2020 on the #WorkTrends podcast. If you want a reality check, I invite you to join me. Despite different circumstances three years on, I think you’ll agree LaFawn’s wisdom still rings true today…

 

Lessons for Today’s Leaders

Here are several takeaways that continue to resonate:

1. DIB Isn’t Just One Standalone Thing

Too many companies attempt to lump diversity, inclusion, and belonging into one category, separate from other business functions. As LaFawn says:

Companies are trying to silo off diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Or they make one of the terms synonymous with the others.

2. How to Unpack DIB

What should we understand about the distinct elements of DIB? According to LaFawn:

Diversity is the belief that teams with different work styles, problem-solving techniques, life experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets truly make innovation possible.

Inclusion is about actions and behaviors that create a culture where employees feel valued, trusted, and authentic.

And belonging is a feeling of community. It is the people and our culture that make us feel connected.

3. An Integrated View

When these three distinct elements of DIB are combined, we feel valued. LaFawn explains:

It’s not about looking like me or coming from where I come from. It’s about those common threads that pull us together in a broader work context.

4. The Pandemic Exposed Many DIB Weaknesses

Even now, we see Covid fallout that disproportionately affects some members of the workforce. For example, frontline workers endured extraordinary stress during the lockdown. This has led to a severe talent shortage in the services sector that is likely to continue.

But by exposing this and other issues of workplace bias and inequality, the pandemic has underscored fundamental changes organizations must make to ensure that marginalized people feel like they belong.

The Business Case for Workplace Diversity

Of course, business leaders must focus on business performance. So I asked LaFawn to share her thoughts about DIB’s impact on the bottom line. Not surprisingly, she served up some compelling statistics:

Will we be a better company 10 years from now? 15?

This question should keep every business leader up at night.

We know that businesses with a more diverse workforce are 36% more likely to be in the top tier of their industry. We know that firms with greater gender diversity are 25% more likely to be at the top in financial returns, market share, and retention.

So diversity, inclusion, and belonging do affect your bottom line!

That’s not all from LaFawn. For more of her DEI guidance, check this article: “How Belonging Differs From Diversity and Inclusion — and Why It Matters.”

Workplace Diversity Belongs With Us All, Especially Now

Like LaFawn, I believe DEI still belongs, today and in the future of work. And we’re not alone by any means.

Earlier this year, an in-depth Pew Research study of nearly 6,000 U.S. workers revealed some valuable insights about the state of workplace DEI. For example, while only 33% of respondents said their employer has a dedicated DEI leader onboard, 61% feel their organization’s policies ensure fairness in hiring, pay, and promotions.

Workplace diversity progress poll - TalentCulture July 2023That’s encouraging. But it’s not the whole story. Consider this small slice of DEI life from TalentCulture’s world:

Several weeks ago, we asked our community to tell us if their work culture has become more diverse and inclusive since the pandemic. Interestingly, only 37% told us the situation has improved at least somewhat, while 63% said it’s the same or even worse.

Clearly, there’s still work to do. But building a culture around workplace diversity is not about platitudes. That’s not a sustainable strategy. DEI is a process. And that process is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.

DEI Leadership Action Items

If you’re a leader who remains committed to creating a workplace around fairness and opportunity for all, keep moving forward. I’m right there with you. And if you’re uncertain about how to move forward, I suggest revisiting other ideas that have stood the test of time.

For example, consider practical advice DEI leaders shared in 2020 with one of our blog contributors, Laura Sabattini. Laura is another DEI expert on the move. In 2020, she was a Principal Researcher at The Conference Board, and she’s since joined Honeywell as Director of Inclusion and Diversity.

Clearly, Laura isn’t just passing along interesting ideas. She is actually walking the talk every single day. I think you’ll agree, the suggestions she curated are worth another look:

1. Create a Common Vision

Enhance communication and drive consistent messaging across the organization. Focus on helping leaders and colleagues understand how DEI improves the work environment and increases resilience during times of change.

Tips from DEI Leaders:

  • Define DEI in ways that directly align with your organization’s culture and values.
  • Identify measurable behaviors and clear expectations to hold people accountable for those behaviors.

2. Encourage Participation and Collaboration

Leverage trends and events to build awareness among those who haven’t been involved with DEI, to ensure that ownership doesn’t fall solely on underrepresented groups.

Tips from DEI Leaders:

  • Provide resources to help people engage, participate, and take action at work and beyond.
  • Build trust by encouraging dialogue over conflict and giving people latitude to make mistakes.

3. Invest in Developing Leadership Skills

Inclusive cultures don’t just happen by chance. They require intentionality and willingness to improve how we work and interact with others. This may require leaders to “unlearn” some management standards before they embrace new skills. The good news: This can improve leadership effectiveness and business results.

Tips From DEI Leaders: 

  • You don’t need to start from scratch. Leverage existing inclusive leadership models.
  • Work with formal and informal DEI champions to identify meaningful behaviors. Some organizations may focus on decision-making, while others may focus on innovation. The key is to align DEI skills with your business and culture.

4. Emphasize Accountability

To build buy-in, hold people accountable for their role in building a more inclusive culture. This includes specific team or leader behaviors as well as managerial metrics (for priorities such as engagement or representation among teams).

Tips From DEI Leaders: 

  • Gather input from leaders and regularly follow-up to discuss their accountability and progress.
  • Engage human capital analytics to identify DEI patterns, trends, and impact. (For example, compare promotion and attrition rates across functions and teams.)
  • Periodically assess what is and isn’t working, and provide stakeholders with updates.
Managers need a toolbox for the "post-everything" era. Here are ideas for elements that organizations should include - by Ron Ricci of The Culture Platform

Managers Need a Toolbox for the “Post-Everything” Era

TalentCulture Content Impact Award Winner - 2023
Sponsored by The Culture Platform

What tools actually help managers manage their people? That’s the most important question every organization needs to ask itself as the workplace enters the “post-everything” era. Post-pandemic, post-work-from-home, post-boomers, post-engagement-software’s-failure-to make-a-difference, post-wondering-if-AI-will-affect-work. You get my drift.

I believe this new era will be defined by how well organizations adapt their approach to managing people, as well as the responsibilities they put on managers’ shoulders.

Inside the “Post-Everything” Manager’s Toolkit

“Post-everything” has created a new starting line for managers. Expectations have changed. Most importantly, the number one reason why individuals leave a job today is a lack of growth opportunities. In fact, more than any generations in history, Gen Z and Millennials are ready to quit their current job for another role that promises better opportunities.

This is why managers need to focus on setting clear expectations. But here’s the catch — it requires human-to-human communication.

I’ve managed about 5,000 people in my career. My on-the-ground experience taught me that no two people are exactly alike. Career planning is a process of ongoing communication. It’s a give-and-take conversation about strengths and weaknesses, about roles and responsibilities, about goals and metrics, about performance and results.

As every manager knows, it’s remarkably easy to make mistakes when setting expectations. Being consistent is hard. But it’s even harder if your organization is also inconsistent.

Think for a moment about your career. Ask yourself this question: Have you ever seen an employer dedicated to providing a single, consistent, unified process that helps managers set expectations about career opportunities for team members? Is this happening where you work now?

The “Post-Everything” Process

Of course, a toolbox is only as good as the process it uses.

I’ve spent a decade talking to hundreds of organizations around the world about the role of the manager. Along the way, I’ve repeatedly heard that if we want to help managers set clear expectations, inconsistency is the biggest problem to solve.

Inconsistency comes in many forms. It may come from a lack of formal goals or goals that are continuously changing. You may see it in a failure to establish metrics or metrics that mean different things. It could be about reorgs or reductions in force, weak communication, managerial changes, or language differences. The list goes on and on.

At its heart, inconsistency breeds distrust in management’s ability to be accountable and follow through on an employee’s career growth. These triggers cause people to move on in search of better opportunities. And that’s why I think organizational inconsistency is failing managers today and is the real reason employees are so disengaged at work.

3 Steps For Success

I’ve come to believe that every unified process to help managers consistently set clear expectations must include three essential steps. Individually, each step is helpful. But linking all three end-to-end is the key to empowering managers, especially at scale. So this is my call to action for leaders:

1. Embrace a Common Vocabulary

Communicate with common terms. Think of company-specific languages like V2MOM from Salesforce or standardized vocabularies like OKRs. A common organizational vocabulary eliminates communication gray zones or ambiguities. What words do people use in running your business? You need to define the meaning of those words. For example, what does strategy mean to your organization? How do you distinguish a priority from a program? What is an initiative, and how does that differ from a project?

2. Emphasize Shared Goals

To be clear about which activities matter to operational execution, develop and publish shared goals. These goals are the way people can connect their job role to what will be rewarded. Shared goals serve the important role of distinguishing what’s important from what’s urgent when communicating. Do we care about growth? Or do we care about efficiency? Shared goals help managers align job roles to what the organization actually values.

3. Focus on the Standard Metrics

Are you measuring everyone’s success the same way? A single taxonomy of metrics sets up what employees really want — a consistent accountability system. If people can’t communicate with facts about their performance and results, it leads to an insidious way of getting ahead: relying on who you know. And we all know what that leads to.

Alignment Matters in the “Post-Everything” Era

A common vocabulary, shared goals, and a single system of metrics. Together, they form an end-to-end process that minimizes inconsistency when setting expectations.

Yes, this process is more difficult than buying a software tool. It requires leaders and managers to do the hard work of agreeing on specific elements of the process. But that said, it’s no different with Six Sigma or Lean/Agile methods. And the results are worth the effort.

The “post-everything era” is defined by what the best employees want — growth and advancement. This era demands end-to-end alignment. That means every employee in an organization should be able to align their job role to current and future opportunities. It is hard work for any manager, but it’s the new “post-everything” reality.

Want to Manage Well? Alignment is the Answer

End-to-end alignment requires human-to-human communication up and down the organization. It’s why I believe employers have been getting engagement wrong. It’s upside down. Instead of being engaged, employees want their leaders and managers to be engaged in conversations about their individual career success.

The core premise of The Collaboration Imperative, which I co-authored about Cisco’s best practices, centers on the idea that any great productivity leap forward or new strategic direction requires the alignment of process, culture, and technology. In other words, it may be tempting to depend on a tool for this, but technology alone cannot substitute for a complete process.

Organizations already put significant weight on managers’ shoulders. In the “post-everything” era, it’s time to lighten the load. It’s time for leaders to carry some of the weight by giving managers what they need — a process that consistently and systematically eliminates inconsistencies in expectation-setting. Let’s give managers the toolbox they really deserve. Your people are depending on it.

I want to give you a head start with this process. Send an email request to me at TheCulturePlatform@gmail.com and I’ll send you a PDF of Chapter 4 from The Collaboration Imperative: Creating Commitment to Shared Goals.

How do you remove politics from the talent calibration process? Follow this data-driven process

Talent Calibration Can Rise Above Politics. But How?

Are you involved in your organization’s talent calibration process? Think back to the last session you attended with executives. Did they mostly stay quiet? Perhaps experience taught them that opening up about employees exposes them to career-damaging shoot-from-the-hip criticism. Or they may think it reflects poorly on them as leaders if staff members’ ratings are less than stellar.

Unfortunately, this is a common situation. And too often, it leads to needless bias in talent ratings. Hyperbolic statements like “She’s fantastic!” or “He’s a superstar!” don’t help. Actually, leaders’ talent calibration input can be distorted by many factors — territorial issues, inflated egos, unconscious bias, a lack of exposure to employees, and more.

How can you minimize the impact of these variables? After working with many senior leadership teams who’ve faced these challenges, we’ve developed an approach that removes politics from the equation. It’s a two-step process:

  1. Capture leadership behaviors on a scorecard.
  2. Rely on data-based decision-making to drive calibration.

Here’s how it works…

The Behavior Scorecard: Measuring Means and Ends

Some executives are wildly successful, yet they’re notorious for leaving a “trail of bodies” behind them. When the end always justifies the means, it sends a negative message that can seriously damage your organization’s culture.

Before executives calibrate talent, they need a way to manage “ends” and “means” that avoids in-the-moment bias. The answer? Emphasize observable behaviors that reflect your cultural mindset and values. Rather than relying on a standard off-the-shelf competency model, focus on real behaviors that are valued in your organization.

Partnering an in-house team with an external challenger can provide a more balanced perspective. Also, expand your interviews beyond top executives. Perspectives from across the organization help create a realistic and authentic framework. Use focus groups, surveys, and other instruments to help illuminate the nature of leadership at all levels of the organization.

Most companies have already performed much of this work, and the evidence is located in multiple places. Start by analyzing verbatim comments from engagement surveys. Review consultant reports based on employee interviews. Interview people at all levels to understand what is valued currently, and what will help the organization advance. Using this data, you can construct a simple set of leadership priorities, including specific behaviors that can shape assessments and learning opportunities.

Assessments based on these behaviors can be one data point in an executive leadership scorecard. Others might include mobility, diversity goals, engagement survey data, ethical conduct, and participation in employee resource groups. Clearly define measures of leadership behavior that will move your organization in the right direction.

Data-Based Decision-Making: 4 Steps

We suggest a simple 4-step, data-driven decision methodology. We call it the “STAR” process — survey, talent card, assessment, and review. This encourages ongoing conversations about executive talent between peers. It also ensures visibility of organizational talent and breaks down silos to increase mobility, career development and advancement.

1. Survey

Understand a leader’s ‘brand’ before calibration.

Conduct a survey based on the potential and visibility of the “brand” each executive has developed with their peers. To promote a robust discussion, compare each executive’s pre-calibration response with responses from peers. This exercise can be especially helpful for succession planning and development.

2. Talent Card

Show a full view of the leader and their organization.

Use this card to aggregate data about leaders and how they manage their teams. Ideally, it features scorecard data, performance data, risk data, and ethical data. It can also include other relevant organizational data such as spans, layers, diversity, and profit and loss responsibility. To offer a broader perspective, you may also want to add responses from employee surveys.

3. Assess

Weight each item to determine a starting score.

For all talent card data, assign a relative weighting based on importance. This creates a set of “scores” based solely on data. These scores are your calibration starting point. Stack rank the list of leaders by score to identify top, middle, and bottom ranges. A leader’s manager can keep the ranking, or challenge it and add commentary. This balances manager reviews and data-based reviews of executive talent.

4. Review

Prep for calibration.

A review period gives executives a starting point to calibrate talent based on available data. Differences between ratings reveal where the “heat” of conversations should focus during a calibration meeting. This review cycle encourages dialogue about gaps before a calibration session. Encourage participants to stay curious and check their biases. Also, prompt them to ask questions that will deepen their understanding, rather than to explain or defend.

The Calibration Session

After completing the pre-work, you can focus on the gaps between data and manager review as a starting point for talent discussions. It also creates opportunities to ask useful probative questions about each leader. For example:

  • Were appropriate goals established?
  • Is this a “how” or “what” issue?
  • Are they seen as a “blocker” for other talent?
  • How do they interact with peers?
  • Are they visible enough?
  • Do they need to move on to a new role?

The calibration team does more than simply determine an appropriate rating. It also makes data-driven decisions around talent actions. Next steps and plans for both struggling and high-potential talent can be recorded during the session.

Benefits of a Better Talent Calibration Process

We’ve worked with many senior leadership teams who’ve faced serious talent calibration challenges. When one firm used this process to deepen their talent discussion, it helped them create more effective development plans and design more confident action plans during the calibration session.

This planning process enabled executives to conduct more fruitful conversations with their most talented leaders. And these conversations about strengths, opportunities, and career paths within the company resulted in increased mobility through promotions, retirements, and resignations. As a result, the company made way for new talent, while increasing the visibility and mobility of diverse talent.

By relying on available data and linking evaluations to transparent behaviors, you too can reduce bias and improve the conversation about enterprise executive talent. Ultimately, you can minimize the unwanted influence of politics in discussions and decisions about your organization’s most precious resource — talent.

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: In developing this article, Jennifer Tice collaborated with Andy Atkins, VP, Executive and Team Performance Practice at BTS, a global consultancy. For more than three decades, BTS has been designing powerful experiences that have a profound and lasting impact on businesses and their people.

Leading Through Change: What Have We Learned?

Leaders, how are you doing? If you’re feeling weary, I get it. Leading through change is hard. Of course, no one promised it would be easy. But no one saw the pandemic coming, either. Suddenly, it just crashed into our lives and shook us to our collective core.

Covid disrupted everything everywhere all at once. And the virus was only the beginning. Three years later, shock waves continue to roll through the world of work, and we still feel massive reverb. In 2021, it was the Great Resignation. Last year, it was Quiet Quitting. Now, it’s about finding a viable path through the push-pull struggle between return-to-office policies vs. remote work preferences.

On that note, let’s take a brief pulse check. Employers, whatever your current remote work standards may be, how’s that working for you? Moreover, how’s it working for your people?

If you’re ambivalent, you’re not alone. Plenty of organizations are still unsure about committing to long-term flexible work options. But if you think remote work demand is just a passing phase, think again. Just check this chart from Google Trends:

Leading through change - remote work - search interest 5 years - google trends

In short, it means U.S. interest in remote work has never been stronger than today – as measured by the volume of Google searches people conduct each day. In fact, we’ve just reached peak historical interest – 100 on a scale of 0-100. And global interest is growing at a similar rate. Surprised?

But I digress. This really isn’t about remote work, per se. It’s about a deeper issue. Namely, how can we lead through change that’s beyond our control? How can we engage and motivate employees, even in the most difficult circumstances?

Recently, I hunted for some answers to these questions by rewinding the #WorkTrends podcast time machine to June 2020. Three years ago, the world seemed at a low ebb. We were living in isolation. Life seemed sad, volatile, and bleak. Change management felt more like crisis management. But that was the perfect time to compare notes with Doug Butler, who was CEO of Reward Gateway – an employee recognition platform provider.

Doug has seen firsthand how mission, values, and engagement can build or break businesses and work cultures. So I asked him to share some of his best advice. Looking back, his leadership suggestions are still just as useful today…

Leading Through Change: 5 Takeaways

1) Aim for a balance of caution and optimism

When things are tough and circumstances are changing rapidly, communication is everything. Remind yourself and others that you’ve been through serious challenges in the past, so you’ll find a way through this, as well.

Sometimes, the process may be painful. You need to be willing to make mistakes and keep going. But be sure people know that you’ll share what you know, when you know it. Then follow through on that promise.

2) Rebuild and reinforce connections

Be more visible. Show up regularly and be accessible to people, whether it’s virtually or in-person, or a combination. Encourage others to do the same. Video technology helps, but there are two kinds of video to consider:

Virtual meetings are common at Doug’s company. But more importantly, he writes a weekly blog for employees. And during the Covid lockdown, he started including a video summary with each update. People responded well to that personal touch. So all of the company’s leaders began adding a video to their written messages.

3) Make it your mission to sustain engagement

While you’re figuring out how to adjust, it’s important to prioritize team morale and emotional wellbeing. Change naturally takes a toll on people, especially when what’s ahead is unclear. This is another reason why open, honest communication and deliberate action are key.

Doug says this management style is actually very liberating. It’s also the best way to put trust at the center of your culture during difficult times.

4) Recognize the upside of change

Ironically, when things are changing, leaders often see new opportunities. It can open the door to doing things better or doing entirely different things. But Doug cautions leaders not to become distracted by too many opportunities.

You need to prioritize. That’s where listening to others helps. People need to feel like they’re part of the conversation. Listening is another aspect of communication that is essential for the health of your culture and your business.

5) Share your vision for the future

This isn’t about making unilateral decisions and delivering a roadmap. It’s about recognizing that people have a vested interest in the future and inviting them to participate in that discussion. That’s why Doug’s team continuously let people know what was in front of them and what they were considering.

Whatever you plan to do, always frame it with the organization’s mission and values. No one wants to change things just for the sake of change. But with the right context, change can become a powerful way to bring people together.

Leading Through Change: Top 10 “To Dos”

After revisiting that podcast with Doug, I found another source of leadership advice from 2020 that deserves renewed attention. Mark Zuppe, a serial business founder, shared a brilliant article on our blog about how to sustain employee experience during tough times.

In many ways, his advice echoes Doug’s. And I think his recommendations are just as relevant now as they were three years ago. Don’t you?

Tips to Stabilize Employee Experience During the Pandemic

  • Foster transparent communications
  • Keep communications positive and helpful
  • Offer employees ways to relieve stress
  • Adjust your internal processes to the “new normal”
  • Be empathetic and patient with your team
  • Proactively seek employee input
  • Expand inbound feedback channels
  • Promote new safety protocols
  • Help your team recalibrate expectations
  • Recognize the small things

Leading Through Change: What’s Next?

We’ve all had to find ways to keep moving through unrelenting change, for better or worse. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned some leadership lessons we never expected to have on our plate. It’s been overwhelming at times. But we’re all better prepared to navigate uncertainty in the future.

Now the question is, will we hold on to those lessons, or leave them behind with our supply of Covid masks? And when the time comes to demonstrate agility again, how will we apply that experience to whatever lies ahead? I hope you’ll share your leadership lessons with me on LinkedIn, or perhaps even in an article or podcast here at TalentCulture.

Does your HR strategy leverage organizational competencies? Find out why it pays to link link company strengths with human resources efforts - and how to get started

Does Your HR Strategy Leverage Organizational Competencies?

In today’s ever-shifting talent landscape, companies large and small are searching for more effective ways to attract, recognize, and retain their workforce. These opportunities come in various forms — new or improved systems, strategies, platforms, and processes. But one smart move is to double down on organizational competencies. In other words, it’s worthwhile for companies to identify, prioritize, develop, and more fully leverage their unique strengths.

What Are Core Competencies and Why Should We Care?

Organizational competencies are a combination of the essential capabilities, knowledge, and skills that create value and fuel a company’s success. They define “how” an organization accomplishes its goals.

Although core competencies are deeply rooted in an organization’s DNA, they don’t materialize on their own. Instead, they’re established and reinforced through years of business experience and cumulative institutional knowledge, along with ongoing training and development. And although competencies are fundamental, they aren’t necessarily rigid and fixed. Just as any business grows and evolves, core competencies can shift over time.

Examples of organizational competencies include:

  • Customer focus
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • Partnering
  • Quality
  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness/problem-solving
  • Teamwork/collaboration

By investing in their core competencies, businesses can improve performance in ways that create and sustain a competitive advantage. In fact, recent McKinsey research concluded, “Companies that focus on their unique strengths and leverage them across the organization are more likely to outperform their peers.”

Linking Organizational Competencies With HR

The concept of leveraging core strengths is not new. However, it’s gaining renewed attention, as employers struggle to address the challenge of attracting and retaining talent in today’s post-pandemic world. In this increasingly complex, fluid global business environment, employers must find ways to differentiate themselves.

One approach is to recognize and support the symbiotic relationship between business strengths and HR. In other words, it pays to ensure that organizational competencies are an integral dimension of HR strategies and operations. For instance, a company could emphasize the importance of improving HR’s ability to:

  1. Build and expand the workforce by attracting and retaining exceptional talent
  2. Identify and address workforce challenges and opportunities
  3. Empower leaders to measure, communicate, and proactively improve staff performance
  4. Better understand, measure, and coach people based on their functional role, team mission, and broader organizational needs

By strengthening these competencies, employers can expect to see improvement in workforce performance as well as overall business outcomes. Why? Here’s what experts say…

4 Ways Organizational Competencies Elevate HR Results

1. Recruitment and Talent Attraction

One way organizations can improve HR outcomes by leading with strengths is through recruitment. Employers that clearly articulate their core competencies and differentiate themselves from competitors are better positioned to attract top talent.

According to LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, “When companies focus on their unique strengths, they are able to attract talent that is aligned with their values and culture.” In fact, research indicates alignment with culture is one of the most powerful ways to drive retention.

2. Employee Learning

Training and development is another area where organizational competencies can help HR make a significant business impact. Companies that create a culture of continuous learning and improvement are directly shaping organizational competencies.

This kind of investment not only addresses an organization’s existing knowledge and skills gaps, but also demonstrates a long-term commitment that resonates with staff. As John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, says, “Companies that invest in employee development are more likely to retain top talent and see a positive impact on their bottom line.”

3. Performance Management

Organizational competencies can also play an integral role in performance management. By clearly defining strengths and expectations, employers can provide people with a roadmap for success.

This also helps managers provide targeted feedback and coaching to support employees as they strive to define and achieve their goals. According to Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, “When managers are able to clearly define expectations and provide feedback that is both kind and direct, they can help employees develop their competencies and reach their full potential.”

4. Performance Support and Coaching

Finally, organizational competencies can help HR teams more effectively identify and support high performers, while also coaching up people who are not performing at their best. By relying on clearly defined competencies, HR practitioners can more confidently create a framework to evaluate performance and identify areas for improvement.

This can also help managers provide targeted coaching and support to help employees develop additional competencies and reach their full potential. As Marcus Buckingham notes in his book, First, Break All the Rules, “Companies that focus on developing employees’ strengths are more likely to see improvements in performance and engagement.”

Final Notes on Core Competencies and HR

In today’s challenging business environment, sources of competitive advantage are hard to find. This is why more employers are leveraging organizational competencies to inform and improve their strategic HR efforts. By linking their unique strengths to talent acquisition and retention, employee learning, performance management, and coaching capabilities, they’re seeing improved workforce metrics. What’s more, they’re seeing better business results, as well.

What drives innovation management at successful companies? Check these tips and examples from an innovation expert.

What Drives Innovation Management at Successful Companies?

In today’s fluid, fiercely competitive business environment, many organizations continuously strive to stay ahead of the curve. They know success requires an ongoing commitment to creativity and innovation. But breathing life into an innovation management strategy can be a complex, time-consuming challenge. What helps market leaders sustain an edge? Let’s take a closer look…

Too Often, Innovation Goals Don’t Match Reality

Why is innovation so crucial? It enhances productivity and profitability. What’s more, it can translate into significant long-term cost efficiencies. For example, according to McKinsey, innovative companies generate 2.4 times more profit, on average, than their less innovative counterparts.

But despite these promising statistics, most companies face a significant gap between innovation aspirations and reality. In fact, more than 80% of business leaders say innovation is one of their top three priorities — yet only 10% are satisfied with their current level of innovation performance.

What can organizations do to close this gap? Effective solutions depend on the people behind the innovation management process.

Managers Are the Secret

Fostering a culture of innovation involves more than just lofty aspirations. It also requires managers who are equipped with the right skills and resources to empower others. As the fundamental link between senior leadership and staff, managers are naturally positioned to foster creativity and innovation.

6 Keys to Innovation Management Success

At leading-edge companies, employees are empowered to experiment with new processes, tools, and services. They may explore a new product line, enhance the customer experience, or develop a tool to improve operational efficiency.

Regardless of the challenge at hand, people must feel ready to respond and supported in their efforts. This is where managers play an integral role in shaping innovation culture. Here are six innovation management steps that make a measurable difference:

1. Set the Right Tone

Innovation thrives when teams feel confident and competent enough to experiment, challenge the status quo, and embrace new ideas, processes, and technologies. This requires functional expertise and awareness of the organization, as well as a spirit of discovery. It also requires a nurturing environment that fosters psychological safety and encourages the free flow of ideas.

But perhaps most importantly, innovation demands a certain appetite for risk — with the reassurance that people can fail fast, learn from experience, and build on that foundation. Managers can set the tone by emphasizing each of these success factors.

2. Ensure That Employees Have Time to Contribute

Time is another consideration. No one can engage in innovation if they’re juggling endless to-do lists and reacting to requests that constantly come their way. Managers can make innovation a priority by allocating sufficient time for team members to stay on top of relevant trends, challenge tradition, investigate core issues, generate ideas, and explore solutions with others.

This is the case at 3M, a company known for its game-changing products. 3M’s long-standing culture of innovation encourages all employees to spend 15% of their work week proactively cultivating and pursuing “innovative ideas that excite them.”

3. Develop Strong Skills

Managers must come to the table with solid innovation management capabilities. After all, motivating employees to reach outside of their comfort zone isn’t easy. It requires emotional intelligence, empathy, and exceptional communication skills. Effective coaching skills are useful when encouraging people to innovate throughout their careers. And entrepreneurial skills come into play when spotting promising opportunities and helping employees find the determination and resourcefulness they need to push the envelope.

Smart companies know the breadth and depth of skills their managers possess. But many employers lack this kind of comprehensive insight. If you need a clearer, more complete view of manager skills across your organization, an inventory can help. First, identify and prioritize skills that matter most to you. Next, audit managers and document their skill sets. Then analyze this data to look for patterns that can help you find strengths and weaknesses.

Skills-Based Development in Practice

Although skills mapping is an important part of the planning process, innovation really comes to life when managers and their employees put these skills into practice. This is why organizations like Unilever and IBM have adopted a skills-based approach to workforce development, planning, and decision making. These companies rely on skills to guide key all kinds of workforce decisions, including hiring and promotions. This frees them from focusing too heavily on limited roles and job-specific siloes. It also enables them to adapt and innovate more swiftly than industry counterparts.

At Unilever, this skills-based approach takes various forms, including a talent marketplace where both permanent employees and “U-Workers” can participate in projects and tasks across the organization, based on their skills. U-Work is a contract work program that provides participants with a guaranteed minimum monthly retainer and enables them to work in a flexible way they prefer.

Meanwhile at IBM, half of its U.S.-based roles no longer require a degree. The company is also investing in upskilling veterans and neurodiverse individuals to develop high-demand skills the company needs.

Results from early adopters of skills-based strategies are promising. For instance, among companies that rely on skills to match people with work opportunities, 26% are better able to anticipate future disruptions, 26% have a more agile workforce, and 26% are more innovative.

4. Let Data Lead the Way

Many organizations are already sitting on a wealth of employee skill data, so implementing skills-based approaches is faster and easier than ever. This data is also an invaluable source of information for managers who are building innovative teams.

Skills data is available from HR, learning, and recruitment systems, as well as work-related platforms like project management tools and document systems. By combining and analyzing data about the work and learning people complete every day, along with their resumes, skills assessments, performance reviews, and feedback from others, managers can get a comprehensive view of their team’s skills and potential.

This kind of skills intelligence makes it possible to identify candidates who could complement a cross-functional innovation team, or expose gaps that may hinder future innovation. In short, it helps managers lead innovation with better insight, conduct career conversations with greater precision, and understand how disruption is shaping their team’s talent requirements.

5. Ensure Everyone is Onboard

Developing a culture of innovation requires buy-in at every level. Celebrating successful solutions and their impact on the business can boost everyone’s enthusiasm for future innovation.

Recognition from managers is particularly powerful. However, it doesn’t need to include a tangible or financial reward. Simply being acknowledged by a senior leader makes a memorable difference, especially if you spotlight employee innovation efforts at team or company meetings. Also, to motivate particularly strong contributors, senior leaders could offer mentoring support. This, in turn, stretches employee innovation skills and experiences that can pay-off in the future.

Enabling team members to share ideas and suggestions can be a highly effective “grassroots” way to support innovation culture. It can be as simple as adding several minutes to your team’s standing meeting agenda.

Or you can schedule standalone brainstorming or knowledge-sharing sessions. In this case, you’ll want to establish a process to ensure that all ideas are heard and acknowledged. Using a “yes, AND” tactic tells employees that their input is welcome and leaders will seriously consider its potential to add business value.

6. Clarify Your Agenda With an Innovation Framework

Interesting ideas are everywhere. But smart organizations don’t blindly pursue all possibilities. Instead, they build a blueprint that helps teams generate ideas, evaluate their potential, and implement solutions that deliver the best benefits for your organization.

This blueprint is also called an innovation framework. By consistently following these guidelines, you can keep resources focused on results that matter, rather than creating distractions.

Evaluating a new idea against your team objectives and business goals ensures that it will have a desirable impact on the top and bottom line. Alternatively, innovating within a need or known constraint can provide solutions to challenges you face.

For instance, the Covid pandemic led to numerous innovations in remote work, education, telehealth, vaccine technology, virtual restaurant services, and more. Now, many manufacturers and retailers are evaluating their innovation pipelines for ideas to tackle the cost of living crisis affecting many regions of the world.

There’s a mistaken belief that innovation is a costly, large-scale endeavor. In fact, it thrives when nurtured from the ground up. Even the smallest pilot projects can yield substantial long-term business impact. So, when planning a pilot project, managers can review team skills to be sure they assign the right people, with the right skills, to the right challenge, at the right time.

Then, managers can move teams forward through this innovation process framework by identifying and addressing one business problem at a time, and building momentum as they tackle subsequent challenges.

Moving Forward With Innovation Management

Every innovation effort begins with a single step. And every small step towards building an innovative business has the potential to create a significant impact in the long-run.

This is why innovative organizations equip managers with all the skills and resources they need to help teams thrive in the face of change.

Want to achieve better business outcomes? Support your managers, so they can embrace a skills-based approach, empower people to experiment, and nurture a culture where innovation is celebrated in all its forms. This will position your organization for long-term success.

 

Change management is tricky. How do you handle it? 9 business professionals weigh in

Change Management is Tricky. How Do You Handle It?

Change is an integral aspect of every organization — especially in today’s volatile environment. But managing change is challenging. That’s why it sometimes helps to rely on change management specialists for guidance or support. But when? It depends on the situation.

To better understand how leaders tackle change successfully, we asked business professionals to tell us how they approach this process. Nine people shared their recommendations. And despite their diverse experiences, some common themes emerged:

  • Help Employees Adjust
  • Include Employees in Decisions
  • Facilitate a Culture Shift
  • Encourage Two-Way Communication
  • Gamify Change Initiatives
  • Deliver Readiness Bootcamps
  • Involve Everyone in Training Curricula Updates
  • Build Skills for Collective Change
  • Keep Remote Teams in the Loop

To learn more about when and how your organization could benefit from these change management methods, read the full responses below…

9 Ways to Lead Change Management

1. Help Employees Adjust

Our direct managers’ plates are already full, so they don’t have enough time and energy to communicate about every change and seek continuous feedback from across their teams. That’s why we rely on dedicated change managers. They ensure that employees get the kind of support they need throughout any change process, and anyone with a question or idea has access to the right forum where they can speak their mind.

Sometimes, employees prefer to discuss these issues with change management specialists, especially if they’re worried about overloading their direct manager with more work. But the change management team is always available as an employee resource.

Their mission is to ensure a seamless adjustment — whether that includes taking ample time to listen to employee concerns, or to address suggestions that might make the implementation process better.

Jack Underwood, CEO and Co-Founder, Circuit

2. Include Employees in Decisions

Our organization isn’t big enough to require a change management team, so whenever a significant change is required, it’s imperative that we include employees in the process. Change can be daunting, stressful and scary, so it’s essential to mitigate any negative impacts, if possible.

Even if you’re just starting to consider a change, employee input is invaluable. People are much more likely to get onboard with new initiatives if they feel a sense of agency. Plus, they often have interesting insights and ideas to contribute.

And when you do move forward, respecting employees’ feelings and involving them in decision-making means you’ll have a smoother journey. Offering opportunities throughout the process to ask questions, raise objections and make suggestions is crucial.

These actions are not just about supporting change. They also reflect a spirit of inclusion. By seeking input and responding to ideas, you demonstrate that your employees are respected and valued, and they matter to your organization. Working together towards a shared vision and collective responsibility reinforces a sense of teamwork and helps employees feel more in control. This encourages engagement and helps employees embrace change.

Martin Gasparian, Attorney and Owner, Maison Law

3. Facilitate a Culture Shift

Our organization is tiny, so we do not have a dedicated change management team. However, we do have a culture committee composed of members from each department, and this group often helps navigate organizational change.

These representatives can act as liaisons and report on general workforce sentiments that might otherwise go unheard for fear of upsetting management. Members can also help their departments understand the reasoning behind a change decision and model a positive example of embracing and adapting to that decision.

A large part of change management is a cultural shift. So, the culture committee can help employees feel like they’re part of the process and help them view change as an evolution of company culture, rather than abandonment of the status quo.

Grace He, People and Culture Director, TeamBuilding

4. Encourage Two-Way Communication

We have a dedicated change management team at Brosix. That’s because change is an inevitable part of any business, and being prepared for it is crucial. One way we handle change is by empowering employees through communication. But change management communication involves more than just sending out a one-time email notice. It requires ongoing interaction with employees. And that demands dedication, clarity and consistency.

Effective two-way communication techniques like surveys, focus groups and informal feedback gathering give employees a voice in change-related decisions. When leaders involve their team in this process, people feel heard and appreciated. And when people feel valued, they’re more likely to welcome change and participate in making it happen.

Proactive two-way communication has other benefits, as well. Leaders can identify and resolve issues that are likely to cause resistance. And the organization can potentially avoid obstacles and pitfalls before they become a problem.

Stefan Chekanov, CEO, Brosix

5. Gamify Change Initiatives

At TechAhead, we have a dedicated change management team that is highly skilled in collaboration, communication and critical thinking. This team analyzes the potential risks and challenges that come with change and develops effective strategies to mitigate them.

To make the change process more engaging, accessible and effective, we use a unique “Gamification of Change Management” approach. Specifically, we’ve developed a game-based change journey that rewards employees with points and badges for completing challenges such as attending training sessions, participating in feedback surveys and collaborating with team members.

We also offer a “Change Management Cafe,” where we invite stakeholders to openly discuss their concerns, suggestions and feedback about changes we’re planning or implementing. This helps create a culture of transparency and collaboration, which makes the entire change process more inclusive.

Vikas Kaushik, CEO, TechAhead

6. Deliver Readiness Bootcamps

Throughout my career, I have seen many organizations struggle with change management. However, my current employer has implemented highly effective “change boot camps” for employees.

These boot camps are training sessions that focus on teaching people how to accept change and move through it with a positive mindset. They also receive resources and tools to make necessary transitions smoother.

With this structured approach to developing employee change capabilities, our organization is better prepared to handle change more efficiently, while maintaining morale, and ultimately achieving success in the transformational process.

Derek Bruce, First Aid Training Director, Skills Training Group

7. Involve Everyone in Training Curriculum Updates

The healthcare industry is a fast-paced, stressful environment where staying on top of constant change is critical. We don’t have a dedicated change management team, but we do have medical educators whose roles include change management. This comes into play for us when we introduce a new curriculum for medical certifications we offer.

Every two years, we need to incorporate best practice updates into our certification programs for medical skills such as CPR and BLS (Basic Life Support). It is our education team’s job to make sure our instructors and clients (nurses and healthcare workers) are up-to-speed with all these curriculum adjustments.

Because this change process focuses on our curriculum, it’s a business priority. That’s why it’s a central part of our education team’s ongoing responsibilities, rather than a standalone activity.

Brian Clark, CEO and Marketing Director, United Medical Education

8. Build Skills for Collective Change

Change management is central to our organization’s mission. We educate others about the power of facilitation in change management and we equip them with tools to transform the process by replacing traditional methods with facilitation.

Within our organization, we embrace the same philosophy. Rather than relying on a dedicated change management team, we focus on equipping individuals across the organization with facilitation skills to address change collectively.

By engaging stakeholders and empowering them to actively participate in the process, we are fostering a culture of change, adaptability and resilience. Ultimately, this means we can achieve change outcomes that are more enduring and effective.

Douglas Ferguson, President, Voltage Control

9. Keep Remote Teams in the Loop

We don’t have a dedicated change management team because our organization is a relatively small remote team. My partner and I oversee necessary changes. Currently, we’re focused on work to be done so we can boost our sales and generate business results.

However, for change management, we keep our employees in the loop by conducting frequent video calls and arranging online meetings so we can communicate our expectations and discuss any questions people may have.

We ensure that employees are satisfied with the volume and nature of their work, so no one feels overloaded. We also consider their feedback about the company’s operations, so we can incorporate changes they will appreciate and feel comfortable adopting.

Harman Singh, Director, Cyphere

 

Employee satisfaction is an inside job. To understand workers' motivations, check these three key points of view

Employee Satisfaction is an Inside Job: 3 Points of View

If you lead a business of any kind, it’s essential to understand the factors that influence employee satisfaction in your organization. This kind of insight starts with awareness of needs, wants and desires of people across your workforce. Especially now, when employers are struggling to find strong talent, knowing what motivates your staff can play a central role in attracting and retaining top performers.

That’s what prompted the Agency Management Institute to take a closer look at  employee satisfaction issues in the marketing and advertising realm. Although this research focuses on professional services firms, it can be useful for leaders in other industries to consider, as well.

For example, with 72% of agency leaders saying they want to empower their staff, there’s no more powerful place to start than by learning what interests, inspires, and energizes team members. By leveraging these insights, you can improve internal communication, build individually tailored development opportunities, improve overall team performance, and more.

3 Key Profiles Behind Employee Satisfaction

When employees feel connected, engaged and satisfied with their work, their organizational culture is likely to be built on knowledge of who they are as individuals. When looking at various attitudes and characteristics associated with employee satisfaction, three types of personality profiles emerge:

  • Enthusiastic 27%
  • Self-reliant 45%
  • At-risk 29%

In other words, an employee’s primary profile is highly likely to indicate their level of commitment, work performance and overall workplace satisfaction.

Employee Satisfaction Types Up Close

Each employee segment brings unique characteristics to the table. But responding effectively to these diverse needs requires keen leadership and a strong work culture. So, what makes each group tick? These snapshot descriptions offer helpful guidance:

1. “Enthusiastic” Segment

Only 27% of survey respondents are considered “enthusiastic.” These people tend to give their employers high marks for professional development, career opportunities, work culture, and even compensation. More importantly, they feel that a long tenure with their company is the best way to build a career. They’re loyal, excited, and engaged. In short, any company would consider these individuals dream employees.

Historically, the enthusiastic group is the smallest segment. Naturally, employers want to know if and how they can attract and develop more of these valued employees. The answer lies in recognizing issues that matter to employees in the other two categories.

2. “Self-Reliant” Segment

Representing 45% of respondents, “self-reliant” employees are by far the largest group. Although these employees tend to think of themselves as responsible for achieving their own success, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Generally, self-reliant employees believe leaders don’t acknowledge or appreciate their struggles or contributions. In fact, many in this group feel “invisible.” And their discontent extends beyond a lack of recognition. They’re also skeptical about whether employers know how to develop their skills, provide opportunities for advancement, or improve their financial position over time.

Interestingly, 63% of these employees are millennials who tend to work for larger organizations. It’s also worth noting that women are heavily represented in this segment, and they tend to feel their opinions and ideas are heard less often than their male peers.

Although these issues are more of a concern for at-risk employees, high stress, difficult clients, and unrealistic expectations about working outside of conventional hours contribute to employee dissatisfaction in this segment. The same can be said for scope creep, job insecurity, and turnover. For all of these reasons, 22% of “self-reliant” employees have thought about leaving their job for greener pastures.

3. “At Risk” Segment

29% of employees are classified as “at risk.” They tend to work for smaller organizations and rely on their employers to engage with them and support them. They’re also much more likely to be women. In fact, 66% of at-risk workers are women.

It should seem obvious, but “at risk” employees are most likely to resign. In fact, research indicates that 50% of people in this segment have thought about seeking other employment. These individuals are looking for more, whether it’s with their current employer or elsewhere.

What’s driving this restlessness? Typically, at-risk workers are looking for a better (or different) workplace culture. Perhaps their current workplace doesn’t suit them, or company policies don’t align with their principles. These people want their employer to care about their wellbeing, align with their values, and provide more opportunities for collaboration and growth.

“At-risk” employees also crave more collaboration. They care deeply about their work. They’re often at the center of an organization’s activities, because they desire opportunities to collaborate with peers in meaningful ways. However, they’re less satisfied with their career trajectory, compensation, and path for advancement than others.

But these people aren’t operating in the shadows. In fact, they’re often spearheading key roles, including strategy, leadership, project management, and account management. Because these employees are central to an organization’s success, losing them could cause major setbacks and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

3 Steps to Strengthen Employee Satisfaction

With all the responsibilities that come with running a business, it’s easy to forget that employment is a two-way street. Here are a few considerations to help you improve engagement and satisfaction among your team members:

1. Encourage people to invest in their own development

Professional development must be a shared responsibility between company leadership and staff. Individuals can’t develop themselves entirely on their own. They need your active guidance, support, and resources to develop themselves. Giving people an active role in mapping their growth plans and decisions about where to invest their time and energy can make a measurable impact on their commitment and satisfaction.

2. Take time to craft a personalized development plan

Because you’re working with individuals, it’s important to recognize that professional development isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every employee deserves a growth plan that’s personalized for their unique goals, interests, and aspirations. Without a plan they can “own,” no amount of time or money will improve their engagement, performance, satisfaction, or retention. What’s more, employees who don’t see any promise of growth won’t be employees for very long. Your commitment to their future success can make all the difference.

3. Find ways to push autonomous workers to new heights

Don’t forget to give “self-reliant” employees their share of attention. While they may not speak up often with complaints, “self-reliant” employees can be a tricky bunch to manage and develop. These folks often need a side hustle to feel engaged, creatively. If they’re asked to do additional work or contribute to a new project, they may engage less with their primary work. To better support these employees, consider pairing them with mentors. This way, they always have access to someone who can help them stick to their agenda while moving forward on their career path.

A Final Note

Building workplace satisfaction is as much about striking a balance as it is about understanding what makes people tick. Investing in your workforce’s professional growth and creating a supportive environment are both key. In fact, if you read between the lines of this survey, it’s clear that employees often believe these actions are worth more than money.